Spain gives Catalan President new deadline to clarify independence bid

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría addressed a letter from Carles Puigdemont on Monday. Santamaria "regretted" that the Catalan leader didn't explicitly declare independence or not. Photo by Chema Moya/EPA

Oct. 16 (UPI) — The Spanish government on Monday gave Catalonia’s leader three extra days to formally declare whether his region will seek independence — a prospect that has been in limbo since last week.

Initially, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont was given a Monday deadline to clear up last week’s announcement regarding the region’s referendum vote, in which citizens favored breaking away from the government in Madrid. A statement by Puigdemont Monday, though, did not satisfy Spanish leaders.

In his response to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Puigdemont didn’t directly address whether or not he declared independence last Wednesday. Puigdemont instead offered two months of dialogue.

“The priority of my government is to always seek solutions by way of dialogue,” Puigdemont wrote. “We want to talk, as well-established democracies do, about the problem placed before us by the majority of the Catalan people, who wish to undertake a journey as an independent country within the framework of Europe.”

“The government regrets that the president decided not to respond to the request,” Spain’s deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, answered. “It was not difficult to say yes or no to whether he had declared independence.”

Puigdemont now has until Thursday to make his intentions clear. De Santamaría said Rajoy demanded a clear answer by then.

If the Catalan leader doesn’t comply, Madrid will move to apply article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — which allows Spanish officials to intervene, suspending Catalonia’s autonomy and calling for new elections.

The status of the referendum vote has been in question since last week when Puigdemont spoke about the independence vote as symbolic, yet didn’t pledge to secession.

Spain has said the vote was illegal.


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