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Spain gives ultimatum to Catalonia: Back down or be punished

  • People walk past a Spanish and an estelada, or independence flag, hanging up for sale in a shop in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. The Spanish Cabinet met in Madrid Wednesday to work out its response to an announcement from the head of the wealthy Catalonia region that he was proceeding with a declaration of independence, further fueling Spain's worst political crisis in decades. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) Emilio Morenatti

  • Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, bottom right is applauded by party members after his speech at the Spanish parliament in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Rajoy said he rejected offers of mediation in the Catalonia crisis, and called for respect of Spanish law while addressing Spain's parliament a day after Catalan officials signed what they called a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White) Paul White

  • Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont signs an independence declaration document after a parliamentary session in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Puigdemont says he has a mandate to declare independence for the northeastern region, but proposes waiting "a few weeks" in order to facilitate a dialogue. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez) Manu Fernandez

  • Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. The Spanish Cabinet met in Madrid Wednesday to work out its response to an announcement from the head of the wealthy Catalonia region that he was proceeding with a declaration of independence, further fueling Spain's worst political crisis in decades. (AP Photo/Paul White) Paul White

  • Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy walks away after delivering a statement at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. The Spanish Cabinet met in Madrid Wednesday to work out its response to an announcement from the head of the wealthy Catalonia region that he was proceeding with a declaration of independence, further fueling Spain's worst political crisis in decades. (AP Photo/Paul White) Paul White

  • Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speaks during a press conference at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. The Spanish Cabinet met in Madrid Wednesday to work out its response to an announcement from the head of the wealthy Catalonia region that he was proceeding with a declaration of independence, further fueling Spain's worst political crisis in decades. (AP Photo/Paul White) Paul White

  • Pro-independence supporters hold a European Union flag during a rally in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said during his speech in the parliament that the region remained committed to independence but said it should follow dialogue with the government in Madrid. ((AP Photo/Francisco Seco) Francisco Seco

  • Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy offers his hand to a police officer who salutes him on arrival at the Spanish parliament in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Rajoy said he rejected offers of mediation in the Catalonia crisis, and called for respect of Spanish law while addressing Spain's parliament a day after Catalan officials signed what they called a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White) Paul White

  • Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy steps up to speak at the Spanish parliament in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Rajoy said he rejected offers of mediation in the Catalonia crisis, and called for respect of Spanish law while addressing Spain's parliament a day after Catalan officials signed what they called a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White) Paul White

  • Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speaks at the Spanish parliament in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Rajoy said he rejected offers of mediation in the Catalonia crisis, and called for respect of Spanish law while addressing Spain's parliament a day after Catalan officials signed what they called a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White) Paul White

  • A girl walks past a new pro-Catalan independence mural on the Falls Road in Belfast, Northern Ireland Wednesday Oct. 11, 2017. Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Wednesday that this month's referendum in Catalonia was part of a strategy "to impose independence that few want and is good for nobody." (Niall Carson /PA via AP) Niall Carson



Associated Press
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Spanish authorities gave Catalonia’s separatist leader five days to explain whether his ambiguous statement on secession was a formal declaration of independence and warned Wednesday that his answer dictated whether they would apply never-used constitutional powers to curtail the region’s autonomy.

Threatening to invoke a section of the Spanish Constitution to assert control over the country’s rogue region, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s response to the central government’s ultimatum would be crucial in deciding “events over the coming days.”

Puigdemont announced on Tuesday that he was using the victory in a banned Oct. 1 referendum to proceed with a declaration of Catalan independence, but the proposed freezing its implementation for a few weeks to allow for dialogue and mediation with the government in Madrid.

His equivocal position seemed designed to appease the most fervent separatists, but also to build support – both in Catalonia and internationally – by provoking another tough response from Rajoy’s Cabinet. Spanish police used force to try to stop the referendum vote, producing images that elicited sympathy for the separatists.

Speaking in Madrid on Wednesday, Rajoy said the referendum Catalonia’s regional parliament and Puigdemont’s government held in violation of a court order was illegal and 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, whose government has been under fire for the police violence, blamed the Catalan separatists for inciting recent street protests and said that “nobody can be proud of the image” Spain has projected to the rest of the world with the referendum.

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 the offers. He said he refused to engage in dialogue with a disobedient Catalan government.