- REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Spain has accused Catalonia of trying to achieve independence through blackmail, as tensions continue to mount over the region’s plans to secede from the mainland.
In a statement published on Wednesday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wrote in Spanish: “The government is not going to negotiate any illegality, it will not accept any blackmail.”
More than 2.2 million Catalonians – 42% of the region’s electorate – voted overwhelmingly to separate from Spain on Sunday.
Spain regards the referendum as unconstitutional, and sent thousands of police officers to stop residents from voting. Around 900 people were injured from clashes with riot police that day.
Regardless, Catalonian lawmakers have said they are ready to declare independence as early as next Monday. Thousands of pro-independence Catalonians also went on strike in Barcelona, the region’s capital, to protest police violence earlier this week.
- Sergio Perez/Reuters
In Wednesday’s statement, Rajoy also condemned Puigdemont’s criticism of King Felipe VI, who in a rare political speech on Tuesday said the Catalonian referendum organisers showed “disrespect to the powers of the state” and constitutional laws.
Following the king’s address, Puigdemont said Felipe was “deliberately ignoring millions of Catalans” and called for mediation, The Telegraph reported.
Rajoy, who has firm support from the king, said: “These criticisms [of the king] show that Mr Puigdemont is not only against the law, but out of reality.”
He added: “Instead of attending to the call for moderation, sanity and democratic coexistence that the Spaniards so much appreciated in the head of state’s [King Felipe’s] message, the President of the Generalitat has insisted on an irresponsible stubbornness that increasingly distances him from rectification that everyone is asking.
“If Mr Puigdemont wants to talk or negotiate, or send mediators, he knows perfectly well what he did before: Return to the letter of the Law, which he should never have abandoned.”
Since Catalonia passed a local law in early September allowing the referendum to take place, Rajoy has undergone extensive efforts to stop the referendum from taking place. Spanish authorities, under Rajoy’s watch, arrested Catalonian officials, seized letters, and blocked websites in the run up to the vote.
The European Commission has also branded the Catalonian referendum illegal. Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s vice-president, also said the Spanish police’s crackdown on Sunday was a “proportionate use of force,” according to Politico.