Spanish Prime Minister threatens to suspend Catalonia's autonomy
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- Thousands of people gathered at the Arc de Triomphe to hear President Carls Puigdemont's speech about the Declaration of Independence of Catalonia. (Getty Images)
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday threatened to suspend Catalonia's regional autonomy after the region said it had a mandate to split from Madrid.
In a televised address Prime Minister Rajoy said that he had asked Catalan leaders to confirm if they had declared indepe ndence, "which is a requirement for any measure the government can adopt under Article 155 of the constitution".
Article 155 allows Madrid to impose central authority over its semi-autonomous regions.
"The cabinet has agreed to require formally to the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared or not independence," Rajoy said.
"The answer from the Catalan president will determine future events, in the next few days," he also said, adding he would keep acting in a "cautious and responsible" way.
This formal requirement is needed to trigger the article 155 though the constitution does not establish any specific time frame for the answer.
Mr Rajoy vowed on Wednesday to do everything in his power to prevent the region's independence in a dispute that has hurled Spain into its deepest political crisis in decades.
He had refused to rule out imposing direct rule over the semi-autonomous regi on, a move many fear could lead to unrest.
Mr Rajoy called an emergency meeting after Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont announced on Tuesday he had accepted the mandate for "Catalonia to become an independent state" following a banned referendum earlier this month.Related reading Catalan leader stops short of formal independence declaration to allow talks
Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont signs a symbolic declaration of ndependence, but urges the Catalan parliament to suspend secession in hopes of holding tension-easing talks with the Spanish government.Catalan leader stops short of formal independence declaration to allow talks Catalan leaders signed a declaration of independence from Spain but immediately put it on hold and called for talks with Madrid on the country's worst political crisis in decades.
But in a parliamentary speech that left many confused, Mr Puigdemont immediately called for Catalonia's independence to be suspended to allow for negotiations with the central government.
'Doesn't know where he's going'
At stake is the future of a region of 7.5 million people deeply divided over independence, one of Spain's economic powerhouses whose drive to break away has raised concern for stability in the European Union.
Crowds of thousands gathered outside the parliament building in Barcelona on Tuesday evening, waving Catalan flags and banners scre aming "democracy" in the hope of witnessing a historic night in a region that remains deeply divided over independence.
But Spain's political establishment rounded on Mr Puigdemont following his declaration and support among separatists in Catalonia was mixed.
"Mr Puigdemont, no one, can expect to impose mediation without returning to legality or democracy," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told reporters.
She said Puigdemont was "a person who doesn't know where he is, where he's going or with whom he wants to go".
Barcelona resident Maria Rosa Bertran said she was against a delayed secession.
"I find it even worse because it is suffering a longer agony. Indecision and uncertainty is the worst thing that can happen to us," she told AFP.
Following his declaration to parliament, Mr Puigdemont and his allies signed an independence declaration ou tside the chamber, but its legal validity was unclear.
Catalonia pressed ahead with an independence referendum on October 1 that the central government said breached Spain's constitution.
Spanish police cracked down on the polls, beating some voters as they closed down polling stations.
"I did not expect independence to be declared today because of all the processes that the government of Spain has begun, both with police actions and with threats," Marc Cazes, a student in Barcelona, said on Tuesday.
About 90 per cent of those who cast ballots voted for independence but the poll was poorly monitored and many Catalans opposed to secession boycotted it.
The crisis has caused deep uncertainty for businesses in one of the wealthiest regions in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy.
A string of companies have already moved their legal headquarters, but not their employees, from Catalonia to other parts of the country.
B ut on Wednesday morning, the Spanish stockmarket was up 1.16 percent on hopes for a breakthrough in the crisis.
The stand-off has also put strain on the euro.
The single currency was up after Mr Puigdemont's announcement and held onto gains in Asian trade on Wednesday, buying $1.1815.
But it was still down two cents from its recent highs seen last month due to the political uncertainty.
Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA, said while the euro rose it "gained little traction as this is little more than kicking the can down the road. It's unlikely we've heard the last of this debate despite cooler heads prevailing".
Demands for independence in Catalonia, which has its own language and cultural traditions, date back centuries.
But a 2010 move by Spain's Constitutional Court to water down a statute that gave Catalonia additional powers, combined with a deep economic meltdown in Spain, sparked a sur ge in support for independence.Source: Google News