The Question In Spain: Did He Or Didn't He Declare Independence? After a confusing speech by the Catalan separatist leader, the Spanish government wants to know if he did or didn't declare independence — because if he did, Madrid is ready to take over Catalonia's autonomy.
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The Question In Spain: Did He Or Didn't He Declare Independence?

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The Question In Spain: Did He Or Didn't He Declare Independence?

The Question In Spain: Did He Or Didn't He Declare Independence?

The Question In Spain: Did He Or Didn't He Declare Independence?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/557197930/557197988" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

After a confusing speech by the Catalan separatist leader, the Spanish government wants to know if he did or didn't declare independence — because if he did, Madrid is ready to take over Catalonia's autonomy.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The question today in Spain is this - did the leader of the northeast region of Catalonia declare independence or not? In a speech last night, he appeared to declare independence from Spain and then take it back. Well, that left people on both sides of the issue scratching their heads today. Lauren Frayer reports from Barcelona.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Here's what the Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont actually said.

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PRESIDENT CARLES PUIGDEMONT: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: "I propose suspending the effects of the Declaration of Independence." He seemed to be trying to balance the will of millions who voted October 1 to break away from Spain with the millions of Catalans who don't want to leave and opposition from the Spanish government in Madrid. But after his speech, he signed a document that says, we constitute a Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign state. That's enough of a declaration of independence for Carla Ricart, who voted yes in the disputed referendum.

CARLA RICART: He announced that. He announced I am proclaiming independence.

FRAYER: Over tapas in Barcelona, she and her friends dissect their regional president's words.

RICART: This is the most discussed topic everywhere with family, friends, group chats, everywhere. It's the only thing people's talking about.

FRAYER: Eugenio Julia is paying close attention because he's worried the terms of his grad school scholarship might change if Catalonia leaves Spain and the European Union. He was frustrated with what he heard last night.

EUGENIO JULIA: I think it was not very straightforward. I think he is just walking in circles. He was very ambiguous. I didn't know what he was saying.

FRAYER: He's not alone. After an emergency cabinet meeting today, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the speech confusing...

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PRIME MINISTER MARIANO RAJOY: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: ...And demanded Puigdemont clarify. Did he declare independence or not? Because if he did, Rajoy says he'll invoke Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which suspends the autonomy of Catalonia. Puigdemont himself could face charges of rebellion. The Catalan separatist leader was very clear about asking for dialogue, but Rajoy told Parliament today he will not negotiate the breakup of Spain.

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RAJOY: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "The Spanish constitution ensures the unity of Spaniards and the indivisibility of Spain," Rajoy said. He's sticking to the letter of the law. But critics say that's not the way to deal with a political conflict. Rajoy is now giving the Catalan leader five days - until Monday - to clarify his position or be deposed by Madrid. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Barcelona.

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