The Catalan president has accused the Spanish government of ignoring his calls for negotiations after he has warned him on Wednesday to abandon his push for independence or face the suspension of regional autonomy.
Carles Puigdemont attacks Spanish government for threat to suspend regional autonomy after he sought dialogue.
On Tuesday, Carles Puigdemont pulled the region back from a showdown with the Madrid government by proposing to delay the effects of a unilateral independence declaration following the controversial referendum earlier this month.
He said the move was intended to provide time for dialogue on the issue that has plunged Spain into its worst political crisis for 40 years.
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, responded by asking Puigdemont whether or not independence had been declared and gave him eight days to drop his independence plans and return Catalonia to “constitutional order”.
If he failed to do so, Rajoy added, the government would use article 155 of the constitution, which permits the imposition of direct rule on autonomous regions.
“We ask for dialogue and the response is to put article 155 on the table,” Puigdemont tweeted on Wednesday night. “Message understood.”
The Catalan president had earlier said he was willing to enter into unconditional negotiations to find a solution.
Oriol Junqueras, the region’s vice-president, addressed himself to Rajoy in another tweet, saying: “A sincere dialogue is what the international community wants and what Catalonia expects, not confrontation and new threats.”
Rajoy has emphatically ruled out the prospect of external mediation and told the Catalan government it will face consequences for ignoring the Spanish constitution and pressing ahead with the referendum in defiance of Spain’s constitutional court.
In an address to parliament on Wednesday afternoon, the prime minister insisted there could be no discussion of Spain’s national unity, as guaranteed by the country’s 1978 constitution.
That’s something that the many mediators who have offered themselves over recent days should bear in mind,” he said.
Most of them have offered to help in good faith to find a way out of this situation. I can only thank them for their concern and their interest. But there is no possible mediation between democratic law and disobedience or illegality.”
As Spain celebrated its national day with an annual military parade in Madrid, thousands of people attended another pro-unity rally in Barcelona on Thursday.
Two small groups of protesters clashed in the city centre, with people throwing chairs at each other before local police separated them. It was unclear what sparked the violence and who was involved.
In a tweet, the Societat Civil Catalana, the group behind the big pro-unity rally, said it condemned the acts of vandalism, which it said had nothing to do with it nor its rally.
Meanwhile a leading human rights group called for an independent report into the violence that marred the referendum on 1 October.
The Catalan government said hundreds of people were hurt after Spanish Guardia Civil and national police officers tasked with preventing the vote charged crowds with batons and fired rubber bullets.
Human Rights Watch said its investigators had determined that some officers used excessive force as they attempted to halt the referendum.
Spanish PM asks Catalonia: have you declared independence or not?
“Our detailed investigation into three cases found that national police and Civil Guard officers used excessive force on October 1 in Catalonia,” said Kartik Raj, HRW’s western Europe researcher.
“The police may well have had the law on their side to enforce a court order, but it didn’t give them the right to use violence against peaceful protesters.”
The group said photographs and video footage also appeared to show “many other instances of manifestly disproportionate use of force against people assembled peacefully in and around polling stations, expressing their political opinion, and in some cases using non-violent disobedience to obstruct police”.
It added that the Spanish authorities’ cooperation with an independent investigation into the events of 1 October would be an important step towards restoring confidence and trust.
While 90% of participants in the poll voted in favour of splitting from Spain, only 2.3 million of Catalonia’s 5.3 million registered voters (43%) took part. However, according to the Catalan government, 770,000 votes were lost through the intervention of the Spanish police.