Cata­lan leader given days to de­cide on re­gion’s path

Mon­day dead­line to clar­ify in­de­pen­dence dec­la­ra­tion.

Star Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By SHARON SMYTH and THOMAS GUALTIERI Bloomberg

Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy gave his Cata­lan an­tag­o­nist Car­les Puigde­mont five days to clar­ify whether he has de­clared in­de­pen­dence from Spain or not as the coun­try cel­e­brated its na­tional hol­i­day on Thurs­day.

Ra­joy at­tended a mil­i­tary pa­rade in the cen­ter of Madrid along­side King Felipe af­ter leav­ing the Cata­lan pres­i­dent to mull over his next move with his op­tions nar­row­ing. Puigde­mont has un­til 10 a.m. Mon­day to clear up his po­si­tion. If he’s found to be in vi­o­la­tion of the law he’ll be given an­other three days to back down. Af­ter that, Ra­joy will trig­ger the le­gal pro­ce­dures to force the Cata­lan ad­min­is­tra­tion from of­fice. While the army has re­mained firmly on the side­lines, the mil­i­tary is pre­pared to help im­pose or­der in the re­gion if the sep­a­ratists try to re­sist the state’s author­ity, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the govern­ment’s plan­ning.

“I’m al­most com­pletely sure that the in­ter­ven­tion of armed forces in Cat­alo­nia won’t be nec­es­sary, but the army has the obli­ga­tion to be ready to de­fend the coun­try both in­side and out­side its bor­ders,” De­fense Min­is­ter Maria Dolores de Cospedal said Thurs­day in an in­ter­view with Spanish na­tional broad­caster TVE.

Ra­joy also plans to re­move the Cata­lan po­lice chief, Josep Lluis Trap­ero, who was in­ter­ro­gated by a Madrid court as part of a sedi­tion probe last week, the per­son said, ask­ing not to be iden­ti­fied dis­cussing pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions. A spokes­woman for Ra­joy said Trap­ero’s sit­u­a­tion is a mat­ter for the courts.

The prime min­is­ter is look­ing to press home his ad­van­tage af­ter Puigde­mont failed to en­list in­ter­na­tional sup­port for his cam­paign to break away from Spain and faced po­ten­tially fa­tal splits within his gov­ern­ing ma­jor­ity in Barcelona. The Cata­lan leader is try­ing to hold to­gether a dis­parate coali­tion that in­cludes both an­ar­chists and con­ser­va­tives with the threat of lengthy jail terms hang­ing over some lead­ing ac­tivists.

“Puigde­mont strikes me as play­ing pri­mar­ily a tac­ti­cal game — like speed chess,” said Daniel Lans­berg-Ro­driguez, a Chicago-based con­sti­tu­tional scholar at North­west­ern Univer­sity. “It’s not a game Cat­alo­nia can re­al­is­ti­cally win; the rules too strongly fa­vor Madrid and it has too many strong pieces. This week the tide al­ready seems to be turn­ing.”

Most re­gional lead­ers joined Ra­joy and the king for the Na­tional Day cel­e­bra­tions in Madrid — though Puigde­mont and the Basque leader Inigo Urkullu stayed away.

The cel­e­bra­tion was marred when a Eurofighter jet crashed as it re­turned to its base, killing the pi­lot.

Ra­joy con­vened an emer­gency Cabi­net ses­sion on Wed­nes­day af­ter Puigde­mont ap­peared to claim in­de­pen­dence for Cat­alo­nia but then sus­pended the process in a speech to the re­gional leg­is­la­ture the night be­fore. Ra­joy ac­cused him of cre­at­ing “de­lib­er­ate con­fu­sion.”

“If Mr. Puigde­mont makes clear his wish to re­spect the law and re­turn in­sti­tu­tions to nor­mal­ity, he would end a pe­riod of un­cer­tainty, ten­sion and rup­ture,” Ra­joy said.

FRAN­CISCO SECO • As­so­ci­ated Press

Spain cel­e­brated its na­tional hol­i­day, Dia de la His­panidad, with a mil­i­tary pa­rade and other events on Thurs­day.

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