The day Cataluña was a repub­lic for a few sec­onds

Madrid de­mands 'of­fi­cial state­ment' af­ter re­gional pres­i­dent Puigde­mont con­fused ev­ery­one by pro­claim­ing in­de­pen­dence and im­me­di­ately call­ing its sus­pen­sion

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Spanish News - Jparkes@cb­news.es

By James Parkes THE IN­DE­PEN­DENT repub­lic of Cataluña was a re­al­ity for less than a minute on Tues­day evening.

Na­tion­al­ist re­gional pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont ap­peared in the Barcelona par­lia­ment to de­liver the re­sults of the Oc­to­ber 1 ref­er­en­dum - de­clared il­le­gal by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court - with which he stated he was le­git­i­mated to pro­claim the in­de­pen­dence of Cataluña in the form of a repub­lic as per the re­gional ref­er­en­dum law ap­proved in Septem­ber - and also de­clared il­le­gal by the max­i­mum Spanish court.

The an­nounce­ment re­sulted in im­me­di­ate cheers from the pro-in­de­pen­dence benches and thou­sands of sup­port­ers who had gath­ered in a nearby park to see the ses­sion on a giant screen.

But 46 sec­onds later, Sr Puigde­mont said he re­quested par­lia­ment to sus­pend the dec­la­ra­tion to open a 'process of di­a­logue'. And the smil­ing faces out­side rapidly changed to pure dis­ap­point­ment and even tears of dis­gust.

The key role of anti-es­tab­lish­ment party CUP - proven by the fact that Sr Puigde­mont's speech sched­uled for 18.00 had to be de­layed un­til past 19.00 be­cause CUP rep­re­sen­ta­tives were not in agree­ment with it - be­came clear a few min­utes later when its re­gional MPs stated they would sus­pend their par­lia­men­tary ac­tiv­ity for one month un­til the dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence be­came ef­fec­tive.

This puts the pres­sure on Sr Puigde­mont and his Junts Pel Si party as with­out the sup­port of the CUP it loses its ma­jor­ity in the re­gional par­lia­ment.

Mean­while, in Madrid, PM Mar­i­ano Ra­joy held an ur­gent late-night meet­ing with the So­cial­ist Pe­dro Sánchez, as main op­po­si­tion party leader.

Sr Sánchez had pre­vi­ously stated his full sup­port to cen­tral govern­ment to de­fend the Spanish Con­sti­tu­tion and its unity - how­ever, the dec­la­ra­tion and sus­pen­sion put the en­tire is­sue into yet an­other le­gal limbo.

Sr Puigde­mont's call for a di­a­logue is in­tended to gain not only in­ter­na­tional sup­port but also that of par­ties such as the PSOE and Pode­mos, who have de­manded talks must be held to solve this sit­u­a­tion.

But an­a­lysts say that the 'sus­pended' dec­la­ra­tion al­ready means that the con­clu­sion of any talks has to be in­de­pen­dence - so there is not much to dis­cuss on equal terms.

Ear­lier on Wed­nes­day, Cata­lan govern­ment spokesman Jordi Tu­rull added fur­ther con­fu­sion by telling Cataluña Ra­dio that Sr Puigde­mont's di­a­logue of­fer was 'sin­cere', but then say­ing on Cadena Ser that 'in­de­pen­dence was un­alien­able, but we want to talk'.

Cen­tral govern­ment can­not ac­cept this as the whole process is backed by leg­is­la­tion de­clared il­le­gal by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court. Futher­more, Euro­pean lead­ers who have in­sisted on a di­a­logue between Madrid and Barcelona have also stated that the Spanish Con­sti­tu­tion must be re­spected.

Now what? The truth is that Tues­day's sus­pended dec­la­ra­tion sim­ply drags on an al­ready tense sit­u­a­tion that is dam­ag­ing Cataluña and the im­age of Spain in­ter­na­tion­ally.

So far over 100 com­pa­nies - in­clud­ing key Cata­lan banks suchs at Caix­a­bank and Sabadell - have moved their fis­cal ad­dresses from Cataluña to other parts of Spain.

The un­cer­tain out­come has led the Bri­tish For­eign Of­fice to ad­vise tourists go­ing to Cataluña to be 'cau­tious' due to the sit­u­a­tion, although it has not rec­om­mended they should not travel there.

Ex­tend­ing this sit­u­a­tion sim­ply re­sults in cre­at­ing more an­i­mos­ity in both camps pro and anti-in­de­pen­dance - and makes ev­ery­day life in Cataluña more com­pli­cated.

If Sr Ra­joy has the sup­port of the PSOE and Ci­u­dadanos he could call on Ar­ti­cle 155 of the Spanish Con­sti­tu­tion and sus­pend the au­ton­omy of Cataluña - Cata­lan­born Ci­u­dadanos leader Al­bert Rivera has re­peat­edly de­manded this, but the So­cial­ists are di­vided on the sub­ject.

If au­ton­omy is sus­pended, the con­se­quen­tial ac­tion would be to take over all re­gional in­sti­tu­tions and even­tu­ally call a re­gional elec­tion. But its also means ex­pelling the pro-in­de­pen­dence par­ties from their of­fices and tak­ing over com­mand of the re­gional po­lice (Mos­sos d'Esquadra) - a highly con­tro­ver­sial move which pro-in­de­pen­dence ac­tivists would an­swer with op­po­si­tion in the streets.

Fol­low­ing an ur­gent Cabi­net meet­ing on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, PM Ra­joy called on Sr Puigde­mont to make it ab­so­lutely clear if he 'has or not' made a dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence. The Cata­lan leader has been given un­til Mon­day at 10.00 to de­liver an of­fi­cial state­ment.

If this an­swer is yes, or there is no an­swer at all, the govern­ment will grant the re­gional leader un­til Thurs­day to re­tract. If not, this will be con­sid­ered as the the le­gal re­quire­ment for the govern­ment to ap­ply Ar­ti­cle 155.

In the po­lit­i­cal ten­nis match, the ball now lies in the court of Sr Puigde­mont, who may push for­ward with in­de­pen­dence be­cause he re­gards the govern­ment's re­quests as a trig­ger for Ar­ti­cle 155. The proind­pen­dence camp has al­ready stated that if this is ap­plied, then it would be clear there is 'no will to talk' on the part of cen­tral govern­ment and there would 'no al­ter­na­tive than to ac­tively de­clare in­de­pen­dence im­me­di­ately'. PSOE sup­port in ex­change for

Con­sti­tu­tion de­bate Shortly af­ter Sr Ra­joy de­liv­ered the ul­ti­ma­tum on Wed­nes­day, PSOE leader Pe­dro Sánchez held a press con­fer­ence to ex­plain his party's sup­port for the PP govern­ment.

Sr Sánchez said the PSOE is sup­port­ing the dec­la­ra­tion of Ar­ti­cle 155 on this oc­ca­sion and went on to an­nounce an agree­ment with Sr Ra­joy to study changes to the Spanish Con­sti­tu­tion.

An­a­lysts say the re­quested con­sti­tu­tional re­form - which has been de­manded by PSOE, Pode­mos and Ci­u­dadanos in re­cent months - has been the con­di­tion im­posed by the So­cial­ists to sup­port the ap­pli­ca­tion of Ar­ti­cle 155.

The PSOE has even set a sched­ule as the party has an­nounced a 'ter­ri­to­rial com­mis­sion' that will last six months and lead to a Con­sti­tu­tional de­bate.

Both anti-es­tab­lish­ment party CUP and Cataluña en Comu (Pode­mos in Cataluña) have also de­clared their op­po­si­tion to a Con­sti­tu­tional amenden­ment.

Cheers turned to dis­ap­point­ment within sec­onds among the pro-in­de­pen­dence camp gath­ered near the re­gional par­lia­ment on Tues­day evening.

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