Catalan leader’s letter doesn’t clarify independence status

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Catalonia’s leader called for dialogue with Spain and a meeting with the country’s Prime Minister, complying with a Monday deadline to respond to a request from the central government to state explicitly whether the regional president had declared independence.

But Carles Puigdemont’s letter, released about two hours before the deadline was set to expire, didn’t clarify whether he indeed had proclaimed that Catalonia had broken away from Spain. The central government had explicitly asked him to respond with a simple “yes” or “no” to that question.

Instead, Puigdemont replied with a four-page letter seeking two months of negotiations and mediation.

“The priority of my government is to intensively seek a path to dialogue,” Puigdemont said in his letter. “We want to talk … Our proposal for dialogue is sincere and honest.”

Spain has repeatedly said that it’s not willing to sit down with Puigdemont if calls for independence are on the table, or accept any form of international mediation. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government has threatened to activate Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution, which could see Madrid take temporary control of some parts of Catalonia’s self-government.

Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catala said that Puigdemont’s letter didn’t answer the question posed by the government. Spain’s deputy prime minister is expected to respond to Puigdemont’s letter in more detail at an upcoming news conference.

Puigdemont held a banned independence referendum on October 1, and made an ambiguous declaration of independence last week. He then immediately suspended the declaration to allow time for talks and mediation.

In Monday’s letter, Puigdemont also called on Spanish authorities to halt “all repression” in Catalonia, referring to a police crackdown during the referendum that left hundreds injured.

He said that the Spanish government should also end its sedition case against two senior Catalan regional police force officers and the leaders of two pro-independence associations. All four were attending a hearing Monday in Spain’s National Court in Madrid.

The sedition case is investigating the roles of the four in September 20-21 demonstrations in Barcelona as Spanish police arrested several Catalan officials and raided offices in a crackdown on referendum preparations.