Catalan Leader Walks Back Independence Promise
Carles Puigdemont now says the region will not secede from Spain during his time in office.
Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont, seemed to walk back earlier comments on Monday when he said the region would not after all “jump into the void” and secede from Spain during his term.
The Catalan government will “stick to dialogue,” Puigdemont told Spain’s Expansion newspaper.
He said he was hoping a coalition government could be formed in Madrid “that talks and negotiates, which the current one has not done.”
The outgoing administration of Mariano Rajoy has refused to negotiate with the Catalans for greater autonomy and successfully petitioned the nation’s highest court to block an independence referendum in what is Spain’s wealthiest region.
But most other parties vying to form a government, with the exception of the far-left Podemos, oppose such a referendum as well.
Last month, the then newly-elected Puigdemont took a harder line, saying, “If Madrid does not want an accord and the majority of Catalans want an independent state, how can you avoid that?”
Puigdemont was elected by his parliament in a last-minute compromise between far-left and centrist supporters of independence in January.
Separatists nearly lost power in Catalonia in the last election. They eked out a five-seat majority in the legislature despite winning only 48 percent of the votes.
The parties, who said in advance they would interpret the election result as a de facto independence on referendum, have initiated the process of breaking away from Spain, including setting up an independent tax authority and social security services.