Catalans have expressed mixed feelings over the regional leadership’s failure to steam ahead and unilaterally split from Madrid, after its declaration of independence was immediately placed on hold pending talks with the central government.
On Tuesday, Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont accepted “the mandate of the people for Catalonia to become an independent republic” and then promptly asked the Catalan parliament to “suspend the effects of the independence declaration to initiate dialogue [with Madrid] in the coming weeks.”
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Following the announcement, many pro-independence activists who had assembled on the streets of Barcelona, expressed their bitter disappointment by the current course adopted by the local government.
Some blamed Puigdemont’s inability to act for jeopardizing their dream. “He remained still; he didn’t take the step ahead as everybody wanted. We understand he appeals to dialogue, but Catalonia has spoken and we wanted independence,” pro-independence activist Carolina told RT’s Ruptly video agency.
As Catalans await the outcome of Wednesday’s emergency cabinet meeting that will be chaired by the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, they fear their dream to create an independent Catalan Republic may slip away as Rajoy has vowed to use everything in his power to prevent the secession of the region.
“He [Puigdemont] says he wants dialogue but Catalonia has asked Spanish Government like 17 times, and every time doors have been closed,” said Christina, who participated in a mass rally in Barcelona. “So I believed today he would finally declare [independence]. And I’m a bit disappointed.”
Over two million Catalans took to the polls on October 1, despite a heavy national police crackdown which left almost 900 people injured. All the same, hopes of establishing their own state still elude them.
“I’m very happy if we succeed. I want independence, I don’t want to know anything about Spain. All my ancestors wanted to, but we were forced to be Spanish. If I ever can say that my nationality is Catalan I’ll be very happy,” Maria Teresa, a pro-independence supporter said.
“We have confidence in our President, we have confidence in our people, and we won’t stop ourselves, we’ll keep going ahead, keep demonstrating and keep defending what we voted, that was a ‘yes’ to the Independence,” Carolina added.
Despite the disappointment, many other Catalans were happy to see Puigdemont officially voicing Catalan aspirations to become an independent nation.
“I’m very happy even though I missed the typical sentence of ‘I proclaim the Independence of Catalonia’. But still, I’m very happy because it means soon what he said will be applied and it looks that at the end Catalonia will be independent after so much time. And it’s about time, please. That’s what we need,” an activist named David has told Ruptly.
Others who gathered at the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona consoled themselves by saying the regional government is just trying to pave a way for a softer transition to self-government.
“I think it might be a way to try to find out the softest way to take this step. And also that the international community is intervening or trying to mediate in some way, it would be good news,” an activist said at the rally.
“We have been waiting for 300 years, I do not think that now we have three weeks to wait for something that it will help to do everything in a more civilized manner,” another local noted at the mass event.