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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Catalan leader vows to declare independence within days

Carles Puigdemont warns that attempts to arrest him or seize his administration's funds would be just the latest mistake that has driven the region towards independence from Spain

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont snubs the king, warns the government and vows independence REUTERS/Albert Gea
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont snubs the king, warns the government and vows independence REUTERS/Albert Gea

Catalonia will declare independence from Spain within days, the secessionist president of the region said in a snub to the country’s king who called for unity in a rare address to the nation.

Carles Puigdemont told the BBC that his administration would act “at the end of this week or the beginning of next week” once all the votes from the banned election were counted.

He warned the central government that any attempt to take action against his administration – including arresting senior figures or seizing finances – could be an “error which changes everything.”

The comments by Mr Puigdemont places the onus back on prime minister Mariano Rajoy who described Sunday’s vote as a “mockery” of democracy and has promised to stop the break-up of the nation.

Regional officials say that 90 per cent of voters backed independence for Catalonia in a chaotic poll that left some 900 people injured after security forces closed polling booths and dispersed crowds. Witnesses reported independence supporters hiding ballot boxes to prevent them being seized.

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Read more:

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Businesses and transport services were closed across the region on Tuesday in a strike protesting against police violence. The strike and Mr Puigdemont's comments marked the latest rises in tensions between the breakaway region and the central government that have sparked concerns across Europe.

Mr Puigdemont had called on the EU to mediate the dispute, but the 28-nation bloc said that it was an internal affair that had to be resolved internally. The European parliament was due to debate the issue on Wednesday.

Mr Puigdemont said that there was currently no contact between the national government and his devolved administration. He said that actions by the central government had promoted the independence case.

“We are closer to independence than we were a month ago,” he said in the interview. “Not only because time has passed, not only because we have made progress according to our timetable, but because each week after every mistake we have gained more support from society.”

In a rare intervention, King Felipe VI criticised the referendum during a televised address saying that organisers acted outside the law and had shown an “unacceptable disloyalty” to the state. He, however, angered many in the region by failing to address the behaviour of the police during Sunday's vote.