The Spanish government will seize control of Catalonia if regional leader Carles Puigdemont gives an ambiguous reply to Madrid’s question about whether he has declared independence from Spain, the interior minister warned Saturday.
“The answer must be without any ambiguity. He must say Yes’ or No,” Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido told Spanish radio. “If he answers ambiguously, it means he doesn’t want dialogue and thus the Spanish government will have to take action,” he added.
On Tuesday evening, the Catalan president said that, while the referendum this month had given his government a mandate to create a sovereign republic, he would not immediately push ahead with independence from Madrid.
Puigdemont made a symbolic declaration of independence, only to suspend it seconds later and call for negotiations with Spain on the region’s future.
On Wednesday the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, asked the Catalan government to clarify whether or not it had declared independence. Rajoy has refused to rule out invoking article 155 of the Spanish Constitution and take control of Catalonia, an unprecedented step which would suspend the region’s autonomy and impose direct rule from Madrid.
Puigdemont is at a crossroads: if he says he did proclaim independence, Madrid will step in. But if he says he did not declare it, some of his allies could withdraw their support for his minority government.