Catalan crisis: Puigdemont under pressure over independence bid

Catalan crisis: Puigdemont under pressure over independence bid

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Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is leading the drive for the region’s independence

Pressure is rising on Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont over his regional government’s drive for independence from Spain.

He is expected to make a statement in Barcelona at 17:00 (15:00 GMT) to clarify his position.

The Spanish government plans to strip the regional government and Mr Puigdemont of their powers.

Article 155 of the Spanish constitution lets Madrid take control of institutions, police and finances.

Mr Puigdemont declared independence after a referendum on 1 October, which was ruled illegal by Spain’s constitutional court. But the Catalan leader immediately suspended implementation, calling for talks.

  • What powers does Catalonia have?
  • The case for and against independence

The Spanish Senate is set to vote on triggering Article 155 on Friday.

Large crowds gathered outside the regional government building ahead of Mr Puigdemont’s much-anticipated statement, with many hoping that he would declare independence.

There had also been speculation that he might suspend the drive for independence and call regional elections in a effort to avoid direct rule from Madrid.

But early on Thursday afternoon Catalan officials said the speech had been suspended. They later said it had been postponed to 17:00 – ahead of a meeting of the regional parliament.

Local media say that his coalition of pro-independence groups is under strain. A spokesman for ERC, a Catalan separatist party, said it would withdraw its support for Mr Puigdemont if he called a snap election.

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Media captionA Catalan government representative and a Spanish government minister fail to see eye to eye in a BBC interview

The Catalan government said that of the 43% who took part in the 1 October referendum, 90% were in favour of independence.

On Wednesday Mr Puigdemont sent a letter to the Spanish Senate arguing that the central government’s plan to intervene in Catalonia’s autonomy was unconstitutional.

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