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Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont refuses to cancel independence bid

IANS | Barcelona |

Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday decided not to rescind his independence bid as per an official requirement from Spain’s government, and instead threatened to put the topic to a vote in his region’s devolved parliament.

Puigdemont announced his decision in a letter to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, reports Efe news.

Puigdemont was officially required by Rajoy’s conservative government to clarify by 10 a.m. on Thursday whether or not he had declared independence during an October 10 speech in the wake of a controversial separatist poll deemed illegal by the Spanish courts.

This was the second and final deadline, as Madrid says Puigdemont on Monday failed to clarify whether he had declared independence.

In the letter published just minutes before the deadline expired, the pro-separatist head of the Catalan regional government said he could put Catalonia’s independence to a vote in the devolved chamber “if the Spanish government continues to block dialogue and continues its repression”.

With this, Puigdemont has effectively put the ball back in Madrid’s court and Rajoy will have to decide whether or not he invokes Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 Constitution, a mechanism that strips Catalonia’s self-governing institutions of their autonomy.

After the independence referendum on October 1, Puigdemont had signed an independence declaration but then suspended it, asking for dialogue.

Political leaders in Madrid and Barcelona have been engaged in a tense stand-off since the disputed referendum, which Catalan leaders say resulted in a “Yes” vote for independence but which the central government regards as illegal.