SPANISH PM Mariano Rajoy told the Catalan regional president yesterday he had three days to renounce independence or face direct rule from Madrid.
Carles Puigdemont refused to give a clear Yes or No answer demanded by Madrid in his response just hours before the deadline Mr Rajoy set last Wednesday.
Instead he stalled, asking for two months of talks over the result of the October 1 independence referendum. More than 90 per cent voted to leave Spain on a 43 per cent turnout after Madrid declared the vote illegal and sent in federal police to violently close down polling stations.
“The priority of my government is to intensively seek a path to dialogue,” Mr Puigdemont said in his letter. “We want to talk … our proposal for dialogue is sincere and honest.”
Mr Rajoy pounced on the equivocal response within hours, giving the Catalan government until Thursday to abandon its secessionist ambitions — or be dissolved and replaced with direct rule from Madrid.
“To extend this situation of uncertainty is only favouring those who are trying to destroy civic concord and impose a radical and impoverishing project in Catalonia,” the right-wing PM wrote.
Mr Puigdemont has appeared increasingly wary of a unilateral independence declaration since the European Union, which the Catalan government hopes to remain part of, opposes it.
He has urged Madrid to drop sedition charges against Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero, Catalan National Assembly chairman Jordi Sanchez, and two pro-independence groups.