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Madrid warns against Catalonia independence declaration

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 09/10/2017
إعادة تشغيل الفيديو

Spain's government insists the country will not be divided as pressure grows on the Catalan regional government after a huge march in Barcelona against secession.

Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, Spain's deputy prime minister, is warning that the Madrid government will act on any Catalan declaration of secession.

She has labelled Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan regional president, a fanatic and is supported by Spain's Socialist leader, Pedro Sanchez, who says his party will back the central government in Madrid if it takes action.

Against this backdrop, Catalonia's future looked uncertain on Monday, on the eve of a major parliamentary speech by Puigdemont, in which it was unclear whether he would stick with plans to declare secession from Spain.

WATCH; Talk to Al Jazeera: Catalan Regional President Carles Puigdemont

Puigdemont is scheduled to speak on Tuesday at 6pm local time (16:00 GMT) "to report on the current political situation".

He has been warned by a spokesman of Spain's main ruling that he risks arrest if he proceeds with secession.

"History should not be repeated. We hope that tomorrow nothing will be declared, because perhaps the one who declares it will end up like the one who declared it 83 years ago," said Pablo Casado of the People's Party (PP).

Casado was referring to Lluis Companys, who proclaimed a short-lived Catalan state in 1934 and was arrested quickly thereafter. Six years later, he was executed by the government of Francisco Franco.

Politicians angered

Casado clarified he was recalling the precedent of Companys' arrest, not his execution.

His comments nevertheless angered pro-independence Catalan politicians, as well the leader of leftist opposition party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias.

As well as arrest, Puigdemont risks prompting the Madrid government into triggering Article 155 of the constitution, which would allow it to take the unprecedented step of suspending Catalonia's home-rule prerogatives.

"We are going to stop Catalonia's independence. We will take the necessary measures to stop it. Catalonia's secession will not happen and the government will do all that is needed to make sure," Casado said after Mariano Rajoy, Spain's prime minister, chaired a PP crisis meeting.

According to sources within Puidgemont's PDeCAT party, there are three possible scenarios: a full secession declaration; a "symbolic" one, with no immediate effect; or no declaration at all, and a fresh call for dialogue with Madrid.

Catalonia held a disputed referendum on October 1, in which 90 per cent of participating Catalans voted for secession.

Yet turnout was only 43 per cent, as most unionists boycotted the ballot, and the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled the vote was illegal.

Rajoy's government had repeatedly refused to grant Catalonia permission to hold a referendum on grounds that it is unconstitutional, since it would only poll a portion of Spain's 46 million residents.

Flight of capital

Avid separatists want a declaration of independence, on the basis of the referendum results. But after major banks and several firms moved their legal bases out of Catalonia, the Catalan business community is urging caution, fearing a major flight of capital.

There are also concerns about lack of international support for secession, and a pro-union march that attracted hundreds of thousands of people in Barcelona on Sunday was a stark reminder that not all of Catalonia is behind the plan.

But Puigdemont's far-left ally, the CUP, is unlikely to accept any backing down. A mere "rhetorical" independence declaration would amount to surrender, CUP regional parliamentarian Mireia Boya warned on Twitter.

The pro-independence Catalan National Assembly said two big screens will be placed near the parliament to follow the debate.

Depending on what he says, Puigdemont can expect to be surrounded by disappointed or jubilant crowds.

A pre-recorded interview in which Puigdemont presented the declaration of independence as a done deal was edited before it was aired late Sunday by Catalan broadcaster TV3.

In an advance extract, Puigdemont said the declaration was "foreseen" by Catalan law, and "we will do what the law says".

In the final version, he said he wanted negotiations with Madrid, and if that option is denied, "we will do what we came to do."

Catalonia's separatist camp has grown in recent years, strengthened by Spain's recent economic crisis and by the central government's rejection of attempts to increase self-rule in the region.

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