Spain says Catalonia's autonomy at risk as deadline looms

By Sara Shayanian  |  Oct. 18, 2017 at 8:04 AM
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Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Spanish leaders said Wednesday they plan to suspend Catalonia's autonomy -- by invoking Article 155 of Spain's Constitution -- if the region's leader misses a new deadline to clarify his intentions on whether to seek independence.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, speaking to the Spanish Congress on Wednesday, insisted that time was up for Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to clear up whether or not he'll move forward with independence after a referendum vote favored it.

Since last week, Rajoy has been trying to ascertain whether Puigdemont plans to seek full independence after the Catalan leader was ambiguous about his intentions in a speech.

Spanish leaders first gave Puigdemont until Monday to clarify his plans, but extended that deadline to Thursday.

"[Thursday] ends the time required for Puigdemont," Rajoy said. "He has the opportunity to make clear whether or not he declared independence."

"All I ask of Mr. Puigdemont is that he acts sensibly ... to put the interest of all citizens first."

If the Catalan leader doesn't comply, Madrid said it will impose Article 155 of Spain's 1978 constitution, which allows the Madrid government to suspend autonomy, impose direct rule and call for new elections in a crisis.

Madrid and the Spanish Constitutional Court have both declared that Catalonia's Oct. 1 referendum was illegal.

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