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Separatists Urge Catalan Leader to Definitively Declare Independence

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Pressure is mounting from within the Catalan separatist movement on Friday for the regional president to declare independence from Spain once and for all, a move that could prompt the central government to take over the region’s powers of self-governance.

Two key allies in the secessionist bid are joining voices from within the ruling pro-independence coalition urging regional leader Carles Puigdemont to ignore Spain’s warnings and lift the suspension on his ambiguous secession proclamation earlier this week.

In a highly anticipated parliamentary speech, Puigdemont said that Catalonia was proceeding with a declaration of independence after an Oct. 1 referendum, but proposed freezing its implementation for a few weeks to allow for the possibility of negotiations with Spain.

Spain considers the referendum to be illegal and unconstitutional, and says its results are invalid. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has rejected any possibility of dialogue unless Puigdemont backtracks and returns “to legality.” He has also said that Spain doesn’t need international mediators in the political deadlock.

Rajoy’s government gave Puigdemont a Monday deadline to clarify whether he really declared independence. If Puigdemont says he did, then he will have three more days to cancel any secession plans. If he refuses to, or doesn’t answer, Rajoy has threatened to trigger for the first time a constitutional article that could give central authorities power to intervene directly in Catalonia.

The far-left separatist Catalan party CUP said in a letter dated Friday that Puigdemont should ignore the Spanish government’s warning, lift the suspension and definitively proclaim independence.

The Assemblea Nacional Catalana, or ANC, a civil society group that organized massive protests in support of secession, also issued a brief statement with a similar message.

“It doesn’t make sense to keep the suspension of the independence declaration” given Madrid’s rejection of any dialogue, ANC said in the statement.

Some politicians of the two parties in the ruling coalition have also expressed similar views on social media, with only a few of them calling for calm. The Catalan government hasn’t given any signal of what it intends to do.

Years of growing separatist sentiment erupted on Oct. 1 when Catalan leaders held the banned referendum despite court rulings and a fierce opposition from Spain.

About 2.3 million Catalans — or 43 percent of the region’s electorate — voted amid police violence to halt the referendum. Catalonia said 90 percent favoured secession and it declared the results valid. Opponents boycotted the vote.

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