TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - The secessionist leader of Catalonia called for international mediation on Monday in the region’s dispute with Madrid, a day after hundreds of people were hurt as police swung truncheons and fired rubber bullets to disrupt an independence referendum.
Results showed voters had overwhelmingly backed independence in the referendum, which Spain has ruled illegal and which opponents of secession mostly boycotted.
The vote was valid and must be implemented, said Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.
“It is not a domestic matter,” he told a news conference on Monday. He said it was “obvious that we need mediation”, adding: “We don’t want a traumatic break ... We want a new understanding with the Spanish state.”
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy met leaders of other political parties and his conservative government issued a statement saying he was seeking a joint response to the crisis. He also spoke to other European leaders and thanked them for supporting Spain’s constitutional order, the statement said.
In Barcelona, hundreds of students gathered in a central square to protest at Sunday’s police crackdown, chanting pro-independence slogans and waving Catalan flags.
The government crackdown had “provoked an unacceptable totalitarian situation using state violence,” student Albert Lopez said. Another protest was held later outside the headquarters of the Spanish National Police in Barcelona.
Elsewhere, life in the city returned to near normal, but the violence had clearly left people in shock and may have hardened attitudes among those who favor independence.
“There is no possibility of dialogue now with the government. We are clear on that,” said a 51-year-old retired worker who declined to give his name.
Spain’s wealthiest region, wedged in the northeast on the Mediterranean coast below the mountainous border with France, has its own language and culture, and a growing minority there have nurtured hopes of independence for years. Madrid says the constitution prohibits secession and is non-negotiable.
The crisis could deepen further if the Catalan regional parliament uses the vote as justification for a unilateral declaration of independence, as foreseen in the referendum law enacted by the region but rejected by Madrid.
With 95 percent of the vote counted, authorities said the “Yes” vote stood at 90.1 percent, on a turnout of 2.26 million out of 5.34 million registered voters.
Polls before Sunday’s vote put support for secession at only around 40 percent, but most opponents were expected to boycott the vote. The Spanish government has taken the risk that its violent crackdown could increase support for the secessionists.
Puigdemont, who held the vote in defiance of a court order, urged Rajoy to say whether he was in favor of mediation, which he said should be overseen by the European Union. He said Brussels had been timid and lacked courage on the matter.
An EU spokesman declined to say whether the Union would mediate, although it would be unusual for Brussels to take such a step within one of the bloc’s own member states.
Other European leaders have mostly shied away from commenting on what they consider an internal matter, although some have expressed alarm at the violence.