Catalonia asks Spain's PM, king for dialogue on independence vote

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 15, 2017 5:45 AM

MADRID (Reuters) - Catalonia's governor and the mayor of its biggest city Barcelona have appealed to Spain's premier and king for dialogue to resolve an increasingly bitter tussle over a planned vote on regional independence, a letter showed on Friday.

Authorities in the wealthy northeastern region have pledged to call Catalans to the polls on Oct. 1, in defiance of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has declared the referendum illegal.

The appeal comes at the end of a week in which the state prosecutor summoned mayors for questioning, and Catalonia rebelled against Madrid's fiscal rules.

Governor Carles Puigdemont and Mayor Ada Colau said in the letter addressed to Rajoy and also sent to King Felipe that they wanted support from the Spanish state for the referendum.

"We call for ... open and unconditional dialogue. A political dialogue, based on the legitimacy we all have, to make possible something that in a democracy is never a problem and even less a crime: listening to the voice of the people," the officials wrote in the letter seen by Reuters.

Two new laws clearing the way for the vote have been suspended while judges consider whether holding it would breach Spain's constitution, which states that the country is indivisible.

King Felipe was widely quoted praising Spain's democracy and social harmony at an awards ceremony on Wednesday, saying "the constitution will prevail over any rupture in that".

The letter accused the Spanish state of "an unprecedented repression offensive".

Most of Catalonia's 5.5 million voters want to have a say on the region's relationship with Spain, but the independence cause has lost support in recent years and surveys now indicate less than half the population would choose full self-rule.

Colau gave a boost to the referendum campaign on Thursday with a message that the vote would go ahead in Barcelona, the region's most populous area, without civil servants involved risking their jobs.

Rajoy is due to attend a party event in Spain's second-biggest city later on Friday.

(Reporting by Raquel Castillo; Writing by Isla Binnie,; Editing by Sonya Dowsett and Ed Osmond)