Madrid rebukes Catalan leader, independence put on hold

Frederick Owens
October 12, 2017

Catalonia is a region in north-east Spain.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy confirmed in a speech on Wednesday that the Spanish Government may invoke article 155 of the Spanish constitution if independence is declared, which would revoke the autonomy of the Catalan Government.

Mr Rajoy has vowed to use everything in his power to prevent independence and has refused to rule out imposing direct rule over the semi-autonomous region - an unprecedented move many fear could lead to unrest.

Puigdemont said on Tuesday that millions of Catalans believe that the region should become an independent state and asked for the mandate to declare it a sovereign state.

National police were involved in violent scenes as they tried to stop the vote taking place.

The Catalan government said 90 percent of those who voted backed independence but turnout was only 43 percent as many opponents of independence stayed at home.

It was a very intentional middle ground - not quite a declaration of independence, but something very close.

Lauren Frayer, reporting for NPR from Barcelona, spoke to graduate student Eugenio Juliá, who "is paying close attention because he's anxious the terms of his grad school scholarship might change if Catalonia leaves Spain and the European Union", Frayer says. "He's just walking in circles", Juliá told Frayer. "I didn't know what he was saying".

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It is the first time Mr Rajoy has openly said that Article 155 of the Spanish constitution will be the next step taken by the government if Catalan authorities do not backtrack.

In a much anticipated address to the Catalan Parliament on Tuesday night, President Puigdemont said: "We call on worldwide states and organisations to recognise the Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state".

At a joint appearance with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that day, Trump said he "think [s] Spain is a great country and it should be united".

Speaking to CNN on Wednesday, Catalan President Puigdemont explained that he had taken this position in order to comply with worldwide requests for peaceful dialogue.

"Today I ask you [Puidgemont] to respect - in your intentions - the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that would make such a dialogue impossible".

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont signs a declaration of independence at the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017.

The crisis has caused deep uncertainty for businesses in one of the wealthiest regions in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy.

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