Carles Puigdemont, the leader of Catalonia, finally gave his speech to the regional parliament in Barcelona after days of tensions over his plans of secession from Spain. He announced that the region had earned the right to independence but immediately asked Parliament to suspend the process to allow for a dialogue with the central government in Madrid, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Most pro-independence supporters expected a full declaration of independence after the Oct. 1 referendum that gave the victory to the “Yes” side with 90 percent of the vote, but Mr. Puigdemont’s careful words showed that he took into account Mr. Rajoy’s vow to use all legal means to stop the separatist movement.

The Catalan leader says he wants to talk a day after Nobel Peace Prize winners called for mediation between Catalonia and the central government of Spain. The problem is that Mr. Rajoy rejects any efforts to engage in a dialogue unless the Catalans stop their plans to divide the nation. A scenario of negotiations seems unlikely.

Catalonia protests, Puidgemont dialogue, Mariano Rajoy
Puigdemont at the Catalan government office on Tuesday. Image credit: The New York Times

During his Tuesday’s long-awaited speech, Mr. Puigdemont addressed the harsh conditions his movement faced on Sunday, Oct. 1 when “violent police attacks” tried to deny Catalans the right to vote, according to a report by The New York Times.

However, the referendum had been banned by Spain’s constitutional court, meaning that no one had the right to take part in the electoral process.

He added that more than 2.2 million people refused to stay at home and overcame fear to produce the victory for the separatist plan. Additionally, Mr. Puigdemont said Catalonia wanted to hold a referendum to allow both sides to express their opinion just like Scotland did but the central government rejected the request for permission as much as 18 times. He emphasized that pro-independence leaders were not criminals for defending their right to make decisions about the future of the region.

Separatist leaders face tough challenges

Under Spanish law, the leaders of the regional government are at a high risk of being arrested for sedition and the Catalan parliament could be suspended, which would allow Mr. Rajoy to take administrative control over Catalonia, its police force and public broadcaster.

The prime minister is expected to make an appearance before the Spanish Parliament on Wednesday to announce emergency measures to prevent the separatist plans from escalating.

Pablo Casado, the spokesman for Spain’s governing party, said Monday that the Catalan leader could be imprisoned for insurrection, as The New York Times reported.

Mr. Puigdemont is challenged by opposition groups in Catalonia. Some anti-independence leaders have called on new Catalan elections as an attempt to put an end to tensions. They believe Mr. Puigdemont is unable to enforce the independence he has promised.

Inés Arrimadas, the leader of the Catalan branch of the Ciudadanos party, told La Sexta on Tuesday that the region was extremely polarized. She added that one half was living in an illusion, which would lead to frustration.

Source: The New York Times