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Catalan leader declares independence but puts it on hold

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Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said Tuesday he would act on what he called a popular mandate to declare independence from Spain but first wanted dialogue with Madrid to ensure it is a peaceful process, reported Politico (Germany).

“The ballot boxes say Yes to independence and this is the path I am determined to follow,” the regional president told the Catalan parliament. “I assume the mandate of the people for Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic.”

However, he immediately asked the Catalan parliament to suspend the act of independence for some weeks to allow for a period of negotiation with the Spanish government.

By doing so Puigdemont may have gone too far for Madrid, and not far enough for the most radical separatists.

The youth branch of the radical-left CUP, the junior partner of the Catalan pro-independence alliance, tweeted that they were witnessing “unacceptable treason.”

A senior Spanish government official said the central government can’t accept that Puigdemont endorses the validity of the referendum law — which has been suspended by the Constitutional Court — or the referendum itself. The official said “an implicit declaration of independence [only] to suspend it afterward” wasn’t acceptable either.

A few hours earlier, European Council President Donald Tusk had urged Puigdemont to “respect … the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that would make such a dialogue [with Madrid] impossible.”

Puigdemont says an October 1 referendum in Catalonia — when a majority of those who voted were in favor of separating from Spain, but the turnout was only 42 percent of the region’s electorate — gave him the mandate for secession. However, threats by local businesses to pull out of the region have given many Catalans pause for thought and led to increased calls for dialogue rather than divorce.

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Tags: Spain, Catalonia
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