Span­ish threat to deny cash for ‘il­le­gal’ Cata­lan ref­er­en­dum

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Han­nah Strange in Barcelona

THE Span­ish gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day dis­missed Cata­lan lead­ers’ of­fer of talks on their in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum as “a trap”, and said it will in­ter­vene in Cat­alo­nia’s fi­nances to en­sure no pub­lic cash is used to fund the “il­le­gal” vote.

Six­teen days from the planned ref­er­en­dum on Oct 1, Cata­lan President Car­les Puigde­mont and other of­fi­cials re­leased a let­ter ap­peal­ing for an agree­ment on a vote and is­su­ing “a new call to di­a­logue” with­out pre­con­di­tions.

In the let­ter, ad­dressed to Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy and King Felipe VI, the lead­ers said they were seek­ing talks “to lis­ten to the voice of the cit­i­zens”.

But the over­ture was re­buffed by Íñigo Mén­dez de Vigo, the Span­ish gov­ern­ment spokesman, who claimed Madrid had not re­ceived the let­ter. Mr Mén­dez de Vigo said the gov­ern­ment thought it “a sar­casm” that Cata­lan lead­ers talk of di­a­logue when “they have only put on the ta­ble a ref­er­en­dum yes or yes.” He also crit­i­cised Barcelona mayor Ada Co­lau over her sup­port for the vote, warn­ing she was “ei­ther with the law or against it”.

Min­is­ters also gave Mr Puigde­mont an ul­ti­ma­tum – sign an agree­ment that pub­lic funds will not be di­verted for the ref­er­en­dum within 48 hours or the gov­ern­ment will seize con­trol of that part of the Cata­lan bud­get des­tined for ser­vices and salaries. This, said fi­nance min­is­ter Cristóbal Mon­toro, was to guar­an­tee “that not even one euro” will go to pay for “some­thing il­le­gal”.

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