Spain to Cat­alo­nia: Back down or else

The Daily Courier - - WORLD -

MADRID — Span­ish au­thor­i­ties gave Cat­alo­nia’s sep­a­ratist leader five days to ex­plain whether his am­bigu­ous state­ment on se­ces­sion was a for­mal dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence and warned Wed­nes­day that his an­swer dic­tated whether they would ap­ply never-used con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers to cur­tail the re­gion’s au­ton­omy.

Threat­en­ing to in­voke a sec­tion of the Span­ish Con­sti­tu­tion to as­sert con­trol over the coun­try’s rogue re­gion, Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy said Cata­lan pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont’s re­sponse to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s ul­ti­ma­tum would be cru­cial in de­cid­ing “events over the com­ing days.”

Puigde­mont an­nounced on Tues­day that he was us­ing the vic­tory in a banned Oct. 1 ref­er­en­dum to pro­ceed with a dec­la­ra­tion of Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence, but pro­posed freez­ing its im­ple­men­ta­tion for a few weeks to al­low for di­a­logue and me­di­a­tion with the gov­ern­ment in Madrid.

His equiv­o­cal po­si­tion seemed de­signed to ap­pease the most fer­vent sep­a­ratists, but also to build sup­port — both in Cat­alo­nia and in­ter­na­tion­ally — by pro­vok­ing another tough re­sponse from Ra­joy’s cab­i­net. Span­ish po­lice used force to try to stop the ref­er­en­dum vote, pro­duc­ing im­ages that elicited sym­pa­thy for the sep­a­ratists.

Speak­ing in the na­tional par­lia­ment in Madrid on Wed­nes­day, Ra­joy said the ref­er­en­dum Cat­alo­nia’s re­gional par­lia­ment and Puigde­mont’s gov­ern­ment held in vi­o­la­tion of a court or­der was il­le­gal and part of a strat­egy “to im­pose in­de­pen­dence that few want and is good for no­body.”

Lawyers, civil so­ci­ety groups and politi­cians in Cat­alo­nia and else­where in Spain have of­fered to me­di­ate be­tween the two sides, but the prime min­is­ter re­jected the of­fers. He said he re­fused to en­gage in di­a­logue with a dis­obey­ing Cata­lan gov­ern­ment.

“There is no pos­si­ble me­di­a­tion be­tween demo­cratic law and dis­obe­di­ence and un­law­ful­ness,” Ra­joy said.

If Puigde­mont replies be­fore Mon­day that he pro­claimed in­de­pen­dence with his Tues­day an­nounce­ment, he would have three more days to rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to a de­mand sub­mit­ted by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment Wed­nes­day. That would mean aban­don­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of the dec­la­ra­tion Cata­lan sep­a­ratist law­mak­ers signed es­tab­lish­ing a new Cata­lan repub­lic, the gov­ern­ment said.

A re­fusal to back­track or pro­vid­ing no re­sponse will lead Madrid to trig­ger Article 155 of the Span­ish Con­sti­tu­tion, which al­lows cen­tral au­thor­i­ties to take some or to­tal con­trol of any of the coun­try’ 17 re­gions if they rebel or don’t com­ply with their le­gal obli­ga­tions.

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