Madrid rebukes Catalonia leader after signing of 'independence declaration'

Spain's deputy prime minister has rebuked the Catalonia regional president after lawmakers in the region signed a document they said was a declaration of independence.

Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Carles Puigdemont "doesn't know where he is, where he is going and with whom he wants to go" after the president signed the Declaration of the Representatives of Catalonia, but delayed its implementation.

Ms Saenz de Santamaria said the Spanish government will hold an emergency Cabinet meeting on Wednesday following the secessionists' announcement.

Spain's Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, is due to address the country's parliament in the afternoon.

Mr Puigdemont was the first to sign the document a long with dozens of other lawmakers in the regional parliament in Barcelona on Tuesday.

The signing ceremony came a few hours after the president addressed the parliament, saying Catalans had earned the right to independence from Spain after a referendum on October 1.

However, he called for dialogue with Spain's government, which has condemned the referendum as illegal and unconstitutional.

The central government in Spain responded by saying it did not accept the declaration of independence by the separatists and did not consider the referendum or its results to be valid.

Mr Puigdemont said the landslide victory in the referendum gave his government the grounds to implement its long-held desire to break century-old ties with Spain.

However, he proposed 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".

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

Such a move would help reduce political tensions and reach "an accord on a solution to go forward with the demands of the Catalan people", Mr Puigdemont added.

About two dozen tractors flying secessionist flags paraded near parliament and thousands of separatists gathered in the promenade next to Barcelona's Arc de Triomf, where the movement's main grassroots group has called for a rally.

Carles Puigdemont

The Spanish government does not accept the "implicit" declaration of independence by the Catalan separatists and the results of a banned referendum cannot be considered valid, an official said.

The official told The Associated Press that the government of Mr Rajoy cannot accept validating a Catalan referendum law that was suspended by Spain's Constitution and called the referendum "fraudulent and illegal".

Mr Rajoy's government "considers it inadmissible to make an implicit declaration of independence and then leave it in suspension in an explicit manner," according to the official.

Mr Puigdemont was highly critical of the Spanish government's response to the referendum and the violent police reaction that left hundreds injured on voting day, but said Catalans have nothing against Spain or Spaniards, and that they want to understand each other better.

Opposition leader Ines Arrimadas of the Ciudadanos (Citizens) party slammed the speech.

"This is a coup. Nobody has recognised the result of the referendum. Nobody in Europe supports what you have just done," she said.

Some 2.3 million Catalans - or 43% of the electorate in the region - voted in the referendum.

Regional authorities say 90% of those who voted were in favour of independence.


KEYWORDS: Catalonia

 

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