Catalonia declares independence then suspends it for talks with Madrid
The government in Madrid has dismissed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont’s calls for talks after he declared Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
“Neither Mr. Puigdemont nor anybody else can claim … to impose mediation. Any dialogue between democrats has to take place within the law,” said Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz.
“The speech that the Generalitat’s president delivered is the speech of a person who doesn’t know where he is, what he wants, or who he wants to go with. The government cannot recognize as valid the Catalan law for the referendum because it is banned by the Constitutional Court,” she added.
Saenz made the remarks shortly after Catalan leaders signed a declaration of independence from Spain, then put it on hold and called for further talks with Madrid.
Puigdemont announced that he had accepted “the mandate of the people for Catalonia to become an independent republic” in accordance with the referendum.
Then he called on the Catalan parliament to “suspend the effects of the independence declaration to initiate dialogue in the coming weeks.”
Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called for an emergency cabinet meeting early on Wednesday to discuss a response.
Taking the floor in the parliament after Puigdemont, Catalan opposition parties criticized Catalan’s leader, stressing that such a move only delays talks on the region’s future.
“From this stand uncertainty is being created and we can’t afford that. It is uncertainty for companies but also for families,” said Miquel Iceta, the leader of the Socialist Party.
“We are filled with reason – in Catalonia a new, noble feeling of rebellion has awoken, a Catalonia forgotten by nationalists will no longer be quiet. Mr. Puigdemont, you were willing to break Spain and the only thing you have achieved is to wake a positive feeling towards Spain,” said Avier Garcia Albio, the leader of the People’s Party.
“No one in Europe supports what you have just done, Mr. Puigdemont,” said Ines Arrimadas, the leader of the Cuidadanos party in Catalonia.
Catalonians responded to the declaration with mixed feelings.
“I am very emotional, this is a historic day. I’m satisfied,” said one of them.
“I find it even worse because it is suffering a longer agony, indecision and uncertainty is the worst thing that can happen to us,” said another.
Earlier in the day, police in Barcelona surrounded the regional parliament compound hours ahead of the declaration of independence of Catalonia.
Last Sunday, the Spanish government went out of its way to avert the referendum, raiding venues and confiscating ballot boxes and papers, arresting officials, and even installing police forces at sites where polling stations managed to get set up to physically remove voters. Security forces used batons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds of voters, wounding nearly 900 people.
Despite the crackdown, some 2.26 million of Catalonia’s 5.3 million registered voters managed to cast their ballots, according to figures released by the regional government, which said the turnout had been some 43 percent. Ninety percent of the participants voted in favor of secession from Spain, the regional government said.