‘Soft Independence?’: Catalan Prez Suspends Referendum Result, Seeks Dialogue with Spain


Catalan’s regional president Carles Puigdemont has declared Catalonia has won the right to be an independent country, but has called on parliament to suspend the effects of the results of the October 1st referendum to allow for ‘mediation and dialogue’ with the Spanish national government.

“I want to follow people’s will for Catalonia to become an independent state,” President Puigdemont told the regional parliament on Tuesday night, but added: “We propose that we commence a dialogue with the Spanish government.”

Speaking for around 20 minutes in some detail on the history of the province and the Catalan independence campaign, he condemned police violence but offered conciliation: “I am not planning any threat. Any insults. We are all responsible for this. We need de-escalate the situation, not feed it any longer. I want to address everyone about the issue.

“We are all part of the same community and we need to go forward together. We will never agree on everything, but we have proved many times that the only way to move forward is with democracy and peace. That requires dialogue.”

The speech is likely to leave both the Spanish national government and separatists dissatisfied, given that independence was not outright declared, but Puigdemont declared he does have a mandate for independence.

Spanish national government authorities were criticised after the Spanish riot police violently suppressed Catalans who had shown up to vote in the referendum on October 1st, the plebiscite ruled as illegal by the Spanish government who authorised officials to remove ballot boxes from polling stations.

Footage showed the elderly being manhandled, women being pulled by their hair, and rubber bullets shot at protesters in the street, leading to a reported 800 people being injured.

Spain’s actions provoked widespread international criticism but the European Union backed the national government and its “proportionate use of force”, with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy threatening to suspend the region’s autonomy.

King Felipe of Spain also weighed in to chastise President Puigdemont, describing the regional government’s actions as “an unacceptable attempt” to take over Catalan institutions, accusing Catalan authorities of trying to place themselves outside both democracy and the law.

Separatists have declared the pro-independence victory in the vote valid, which was followed by mass protests by pro-separatist Catalans, followed by pro-unity marches.

The Catalans have a troubled relationship with Spain, which violently stripped away their autonomy and attempted to stamp out their language during the Franco years, which also settled hundreds of thousands of outsiders in the region to try and dilute its sense of national identity.

Catalonia’s leaders organised a referendum on establishing an independent republic in 2014, which was approved with over 80 per cent of the votes cast — but Spain, backed by the European Union, refused to recognise it.