By Geoffrey Smith
October 19, 2017

Spain’s government will trigger on Saturday the Article 155 of the country’s Constitution, allowing it to suspend Catalonia’s political autonomy, the office of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said after a Cabinet meeting Thursday.

The special Cabinet meeting was called after Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said the regional Parliament could vote on a formal declaration of independence from Spain if the central government failed to agree to talks.

Read: The EU Is Afraid of Causing “Chaos” by Intervening in Catalonia – Juncker

As such, both sides are effectively playing for time, with neither side eager to take the step that would irrevocably plunge one of the oldest states in the world into turmoil. Earlier this week, Rajoy had given Puigdemont an ultimatum to remove by today the ambiguity around the region’s intentions. The Catalan leader had last week said the region had the “right” to secede, but suspended the decision only eight seconds later, saying he first wanted “dialogue” with the central government.

Puigdemont’s letter Thursday clarified that there had not been a formal declaration of independence yet, but again repeated his threat.

“If the central government persists in blocking dialogue and continues its repression, the Catalan Parliament may proceed, if it considers it appropriate, to approve a formal declaration of independence,” the letter said.

Read: Hostage to Catalonia? No Way, Says the EU

Catalans largely stayed away from an independence referendum on Oct. 1 that the regional government had called in breach of the Spanish Constitution. Of the 43% who did turn out, around 90% voted for independence. However, opinion polls before the vote had consistently shown a majority in favor of staying in the Kingdom of Spain.

 

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