MADRID, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Both the Spanish prime minister and the deputy prime minister have said that the government is prepared to apply Article 155 of the Constitution and temporarily suspend the autonomy of the Catalan region in the north east of the country.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government has threatened to apply the measure unless Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont clarifies by 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) on Thursday whether or not he declared the independence of the region on Oct. 10 and to retract that declaration if that is indeed the case.
A first deadline passed on Monday with Puigdemont sending a letter to Rajoy asking for dialogue, but without clarifying the situation. Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said on Tuesday that Puigdemont would "not alter" his current position but would again offer a dialogue to Rajoy on Thursday.
Speaking in the Control Session of the Spanish Congress on Wednesday morning, Rajoy insisted that was not enough. "Tomorrow ends the time required for Puigdemont. He has the opportunity to make clear whether or not he declared independence," Rajoy said.
Rajoy then said if a reply was not forthcoming, his government had "the obligation to defend the rights of all Spanish people."
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said that unless Puigdemont attended to the question, "it will mean Article 155 is applied ... We will always apply the Spanish Constitution and applying Article 155 is applying the Constitution," she added.
The Catalan region held an independence referendum on Oct. 1. The referendum was ruled illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court on Tuesday and described as "one of the biggest affronts to the Spanish Constitution from a regional parliament."