CATALUÑA IN CRISIS
Concern rises as unilateral declaration of independence is likely in the coming days
“WE ARE going to declare independence 48 hours after all the votes are in and the results are official.”
These were the words of the regional president of Cataluña, Carles Puigdemont, in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday evening, following the referendum on Sunday which had been declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
Sr Puigdemont said the notification of the break from Spain would probably come ‘this weekend or at the beginning of next week’, as all the votes should be counted by today (Friday).
Since then the Catalan government has revealed that a full session of the regional parliament will be held on Monday, when it is understood that the declaration of independence could be made.
Following calls for dialogue from the European Union and around the world over the increasingly tense situation in Spain, Sr Puigdemont made a televised address on Wednesday night in which he said that the door was open for talks with Madrid.
However, Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular (PP) national government has stated that it will not allow the break-up of the country and will not negotiate.
Deputy PM Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría gave a televised rebuttal to Sr Puigdemont shortly after his eight-minute speech. A government press release paraphrasing her intervention noted: “Negotiation in democracy can only be done one way, and that is by following the law.
“If Sr Puigdemont wants to talk or negotiate, or wants to send mediators, he knows perfectly well what he has to do first – and that is to return to the legal path, which he should never have left.”
The PP have also turned down a bid from Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias to start a process of dialogue between the Catalan authorities, the national government and all other parties in an attempt to resolve the crisis and bring Spain back from the cliff edge.
In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening, King Felipe reiterated the stance of the PP government by stating that any declaration of independence would be illegal.
The King said that the Catalan government had ‘systematically broken the law’ and shown ‘inadmissible disloyalty’ to the powers of the state.
He also accused Sr Puigdemont’s executive of ‘disgracefully’ dividing Catalan society and ‘trying to break the unity of Spain’.
The King stated that it was the responsibility of the ‘legitimate powers of the state to ensure constitutional order, the normal functioning of the institutions and the rule of law’.
Some commentators lamented that the King had not taken the opportunity to appeal for dialogue and had forsaken the impartial role of the monarch in politics.
In the BBC interview, Sr Puigdemont was asked what the Catalan government would do if the Spanish state took control of the region.
He answered: “This would be another error in a chain of errors.
“After each error they have made, we have gained more support from society.
“There is a growing majority in Cataluña who will not accept this situation.”
More than 900 people were estimated to be injured on Sunday after National Police and Guardia Civil attempted to halt the independence vote by raiding polling stations.
This led to confrontation and violence, with rubber bullets fired at crowds.
The police action caused an international outcry after the world’s media replayed the scenes from polling stations on news bulletins.
More on the Catalan crisis on page 21.