CATALUÑA IN CRI­SIS

Con­cern rises as uni­lat­eral dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence is likely in the com­ing days

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dave Jones

“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.

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