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Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy addressed Congress on Wednesday afternoon to talk about his government’s plans, a day after Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont declared independence, then immediately placed it on hold.
Rajoy confirmed that he has requested the Catalan government clear up whether independence has indeed been declared, in which case he would activate a constitutional provision giving the central government power to temporarily take over Catalonia’s internal affairs. Puigdemont has five days to explain himself.
“We have requested from the government of Catalonia to confirm whether it has declared independence, regardless of the deliberate confusion that was created yesterday. The reply that Puigdemont provides will mark future events. It is in his power to return to the path of legality,” he said.
Rajoy insisted that he is open to dialogue, and even suggested the possibility of constitutional reform, but only if Catalan authorities backtrack on their breakaway laws.
“Democracy cannot be exercised outside the rules that govern it; wherever these rules are violated, democracy does not exist. To vote against democracy or outside of it is not democracy.”
The Socialist Party (PSOE) and center-right group Ciudadanos sided with the government in its support for the constitutional framework. Unidos Podemos requested a legal referendum to ascertain once and for all whether a majority of Catalans really want independence or not.
“I don’t have children, but I would like to, and I would like them to know a Spain with Catalonia in it, and that can only happen if a referendum is held,” said Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias. Then, addressing Rajoy, he added: “Do not apply Section 155 of the Constitution; act like a head of government and stop breaking up Spain.”
Joan Tardá, of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), part of the governing coalition in Catalonia, accused the central government of “ramping up repression” against a “peaceful nation without a state.”
In its formal request, the central government gives Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont five days to confirm whether he has declared Catalonia’s independence or not. If the answer is affirmative, the document provides another deadline ending on Thursday, October 19 for Catalan authorities to rectify and prevent the application of Section 155 of the Spanish Consitution, which would allow Madrid to temporarily take over Catalonia’s internal affairs, EFE reports.
Joan Tardá of Catalan Republican Left (ERC) to the PP government: “You have opted for an increase in repression. We are a peaceful people. I’m not saying that we are defenseless but we are a people who have chosen to be peaceful, perhaps also because we are a nation without a state, and because if we are where we are, and still are what we are, and have maintained our language with great difficulty, it’s because we couldn’t waste any time, and had to devote great efforts, and generations, to maintaining that which others, for historical reasons, had already assured for themselves. We haven’t even been tempted to be violent, we couldn’t waste the time.”
Yolanda Díaz, of the Galician Communist Party: “Don’t take measures that there is no going back on, which will lead to confrontation. This is the time for words. We have reached this point because you irresponsibly liquidated the Statute that was approved by this chamber. Mrs Robles, don’t let the PP appropriate the Constitution, Alianza Popular (the PP’s predecessor) did not vote for it. You do not understand Catalonia and you want to go back to the days prior to May 15. From Galicia, we tell you to stop this hate against Catalona and against Spain. The demand for the referendum is the last way out: it may be today, tomorrow or in five years, but it will happen.”
Socialist Party (PSOE) spokeswoman Margarita Robles expresses her party’s support for the government: “I agree with your words because we are experiencing very difficult and very serious times, and that’s why we believe this is a time for politics. We Socialists defend the constitutional framework because many within the PSOE paid with their freedom in order to obtain such a framework. Many Socialists, and many Catalans, paid for it with their freedoms.”
Rajoy: “We’ve been together for centuries, and we have been able to draw strength from our unity. And Spain wants Catalonia, with its culture, its language and its personality. I am seeing a serene Spain, filled with thousands of Spaniards who have taken to the streets, also the streets of Catalonia, to proclaim their love for their country. For all of them, it is necessary to end the present fracture by displaying serenity and prudence, working towards the goal of restoring social harmony.”
Rajoy: “I am a firm supporter of dialogue, but I should warn that it is not possible to accept a unilateral imposition of viewpoints that one of the parties cannot accept. And national sovereignty and where it rests cannot be negotiated. This is something that should be taken into account by the well-intentioned mediators who have stepped up.”
Rajoy: “The solution involves healing the wounds. Catalonia is a place where everyone can be different without anyone feeling better than anyone else. And in order to restore this harmony, we need to be able to count on the deal-oriented Catalanism that has managed to make its own achievements universal.”