Catalan leader stakes claim to independence, then delays it

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Catalan separatists on Tuesday signed what they called a declaration of independence from Spain to cheers and applause in the regional parliament. Catalonia’s president said he would delay implementing it for several weeks to give dialogue a chance.

Spain, however, called an emergency Cabinet meeting for Wednesday morning and gave little indication it is willing to talk.

In his highly anticipated speech, regional President Carles Puigdemont said the landslide victory in a disputed Oct. 1 referendum gave his government the grounds to implement its long-held desire to break century-old ties with Spain.

But he proposed that the regional parliament “suspend the effects of the independence declaration to commence a dialogue, not only for reducing tension but for reaching an accord on a solution to go forward with the demands of the Catalan people.”

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“We have to listen to the voices that have asked us to give a chance for dialogue with the Spanish state,” Puigdemont said.

The central government in Madrid responded that it did not accept the declaration of independence by the separatists and did not consider the referendum or its results to be valid. Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said an emergency Cabinet meeting had been called for Wednesday.

The Catalan leader “doesn’t know where he is, where he is going and with whom he wants to go,” she said.

Saenz de Santamaria said the government couldn’t accept the Catalan government’s validation of its referendum law because it is suspended by the Constitutional Court, or the results of the Oct. 1 vote because it was illegal and void of guarantees.

She said Puigdemont had put Catalonia “in the greatest level of uncertainty seen yet.”

One of the government’s options at the Wednesday meeting could be to set about applying Article 155 of the Constitution,…

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