CATALAN INDEPENDENCE DRIVE

Spanish government unmoved by Catalonia separatist march

Secessionists should seek constitutional reform, not illegal vote, says deputy prime minister

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría during Friday's press conference.
Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría during Friday's press conference.EFE

The center-right government of the Popular Party (PP) remains unmoved by Catalan separatists’ show of force to mark Catalonia Day in Barcelona on Thursday.

“Citizens have the right to march but elected officials have the obligation to respect the law,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría on Friday. “The government respects the right of all people who demonstrate peacefully, a right that is enshrined in the Constitution. But the same Constitution that protects that right also establishes the procedures through which elected officials may change our constitutional system.”

The situation is something of a catch-22: Madrid views Catalonia’s planned referendum on self-rule as illegal and plans to appeal it to the Constitutional Court to deprive it of legal significance.

Instead, says the government, Catalan separatists should lobby for constitutional reform to make their referendum legally acceptable.

Madrid’s only strategy right now is one of fear and of saying ‘no’ to everything”

But the catch is that any requests for constitutional change would doubtlessly be voted down by the PP’s congressional majority.

Regarding Catalan premier Artur Mas’ request for dialogue following the public show of support for the referendum on Catalonia Day, the deputy prime minister said no extraordinary meetings were on the agenda. “We will continue working as we have to date.”

Artur Mas, of the CiU nationalist bloc, said earlier on Friday that Catalans would “vote for sure; the conditions of the referendum are another story, as these do not depend solely on us. If we don’t do this right, it will be like a boomerang that comes back against us.”

Mas reiterated his criticism of Madrid for “refusing to budge” on the Catalan issue. “I don’t harbor much hope, but there is still time for the Spanish government to make a move. Its only strategy right now is one of fear and of saying ‘no’ to everything.”

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