MADRID (AP) — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy demanded Wednesday that the leader of Catalonia clarify whether he has declared the region’s independence, issuing a veiled threat that the central government could limit or rescind Catalan autonomy if he has.
Rajoy said Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s response would be crucial in deciding “events over the coming days.”
The prime minister’s remarks marked the first time that Rajoy has openly said that invoking a section of the Spanish Constitution that allows the government to assert control over regions would be the next step, if Catalan authorities don’t backtrack.
The central government “wants to offer certainty to citizens” and it was “necessary to return tranquility and calm,” he said following a special Cabinet meeting.
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Rajoy’s demand was in response to Puigdemont’s announcement that he was proceeding with a declaration of independence following the disputed secession referendum Catalonia held on Oct. 1 referendum, but suspending the move from taking effect for several weeks to facilitate negotiations.
Speaking in parliament later Wednesday, the prime minister said the referendum was part of a strategy “to impose independence that few want and is good for nobody.”
The ensuing crisis, he said, was “one of the most difficult times in our recent history.”
Rajoy said Catalan authorities broke the law by holding the referendum and incited street protests to give an appearance of legitimacy to the vote.
He did not refer to the violence with which police cracked down on voting day but said “nobody can be proud of the image” Spain projected, adding that the only ones to blame were the separatist leaders.
Catalan lawyers, civil society groups and politicians in Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain have offered to mediate between the two sides, but the prime minister rejected…