Madrid rebukes Catalonia’s leader after independence move

11 October 2017 06:42

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Deputy PM says Carles Puigdemont ‘doesn’t know where he is and where he is going’

Spain’s deputy prime minister has rebuked the Catalonia regional president after lawmakers in the region signed a document they said was a declaration of independence.

Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Carles Puigdemont “doesn’t know where he is, where he is going and with whom he wants to go” after the president signed the Declaration of the Representatives of Catalonia, but delayed its implementation.

Ms Saenz de Santamaria said the Spanish government will hold an emergency Cabinet meeting on Wednesday following the secessionists’ announcement. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, is due to address the country’s parliament in the afternoon.

Mr Puigdemont risked retribution from Madrid and the loss of part of his own support base on Tuesday when he issued a unilateral declaration of independence for his region but then called for it to be suspended.

Mr Puigdemont said the results of a referendum staged on October 1st allowed “for Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic”. However, he then said that suspending that declaration would allow several weeks for mediation to take place between his administration and that of Mr Rajoy’s.

Previously the Spanish government had not ruled out the possibility of temporarily ending the Catalan government’s autonomous powers.

Mr Puigdemont’s announcement, made in the Catalan parliament, was widely anticipated, as many of his supporters had expected an outright declaration of independence. However, it was clear in the days leading up to his appearance that there were conflicting ideas within the Catalan pro-independence front regarding how it should be worded.

A string of Catalan companies have announced they are moving their legal base out of the region due to the political uncertainty, including energy giant Gas Natural and lenders CaixaBank and Sabadell. The corporate exodus was known to be worrying many in the Catalan government, particularly in Mr Puigdemont’s Catalan Democratic Party (PDeCAT).

In his speech, Mr Puigdemont voiced long-standing grievances with the Spanish state and cited the Spanish police actions against Catalan voters in the referendum. He also presented his region’s relationship with Spain as a failed one, but insisted that the two could sit down and negotiate.

“We’ll never agree on everything but we can agree that the way to move forward can be none other than that of democracy and peace,” he said.

Although the Catholic Church and the Swiss government are among those to have been contacted with a view to possible mediation, the Rajoy government has refused Mr Puigdemont’s previous offers of talks because the possibility of an independence declaration was on the table.

Some members of the Catalan pro-independence front voiced disappointment at the speech, suggesting Mr Puigdemont could face challenges as he attempts to keep his secessionist coalition in power in the region.


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