Catalan president delays independence declaration, asks for talks

Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont met with cabinet members and lawmakers Tuesday to discuss the referendum independence vote. Photo by Alejandro Garcia/EPA

Oct. 11 (UPI) — In a speech many believed could include Catalonia’s declaration of independence from Spain, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont instead called for dialogue between the two governments.

Catalonia’s president said his government is delaying a declaration of independence to focus on those talks, though he said he has a mandate to lead Catalonia “to become an independent state in the form of a republic.”

“We’re suspending the declaration of independence for a few weeks, because we want a reasonable dialogue, a mediation with the Spanish state,” he said.

Puigdemont tried to defuse the heightened tensions between Spain and the northwestern state of Catalonia, which came to a head on Oct. 1, when millions of Catalans voted in an independence referendum. About 2 million of the 2.3 million votes cast backed independence, though some 5 million Catalonians were eligible to vote. Spanish-directed police forces occupied many polling places and violence erupted between the two sides.

Catalonia was not inviting violence, Puigdemont said, and instead wanted an independence referendum in the spirit of a similar election held in a largely peaceful fashion in Scotland in 2014.

“We have been ready to talk and have dialogue. We have nothing against Spain,” Puigdemont said. “We want to have a better understanding with Spain. The relationship hasn’t been working for many years, and now it’s unsustainable.

Catalan officials said the voters showed a resounding ‘yes’ to secede — but Spanish officials, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoysay the referendum was illegal and unconstitutional. Even after Puigdemont’s speech, the Spanish government could still decide to take control of Catalonia’s regional government.

Many observers thought Puigdemont’s speech could go one of three ways — an immediate secession, independence at a later date, or a call for new regional elections.

“This is going to be a historical day regardless of the consequences,” Alejandro Quiroga, a Spanish history professor at the University of Newcastle, Britain, said in an interview with Bloomberg.


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