The President of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, and the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau —together with Vice President Junqueras and Speaker of the House Forcadell—, have sent a letter to Prime Minister Rajoy calling for a negotiated referendum in a final attempt to resume talks. The letter, which was originally leaked by RAC1 and which ARA has also had access to, was also sent to King Felipe.
The letter proposes that the parties involved seek a political solution to the conflict between Catalonia and Spain, while pointing out that a large majority of Catalans wish to do so through means of a referendum. They call for an "open dialogue without conditions" in order to address "how we can reach an agreement as to how the Catalans can vote in the referendum", arguing that "listening to the voice of the people is never a crime".
The letter details numerous attempts by Catalonia has attempted to initiate dialogue, which have always met with "a negative or worse, an untenable, retrograde response.", such as the Constitutional Court’s ruling that struck down the 2010 Statute and the proposal for a fiscal agreement, which was also rejected. It also cites recent Spanish government responses to the preparations for the 1-O referendum, such as a ban on public meetings, threats to media, criminal charges brought against members of the government and the closure of the website advertising the referendum.
Puigdemont and Colau argue that the state has begun an "unprecedented offensive of repression" that limits "freedom of expression", while praising the peaceful, mass demonstrations by the public. The document ends by reiterating their willingness for dialogue which, "has always existed and will continue to stand".
The full text of the letter
In a democratic system, political conflicts are resolved through political means which in turn are the result of negotiations and dialogue. A long-running political conflict clearly exists between Catalonia and Spain. Repeated attempts to find a solution with a broad consensus have failed. Spain’s response has been a consistent "no", or worse yet, it has taken untenable, retrograde measures. When the Constitutional Court struck down the Statute, which had previously been agreed upon by both the Catalan and Spanish parliaments and approved by referendum by the citizens of Catalonia, it broke the constitutional pact of 1978. Catalonia subsequently made new proposals, such as a fiscal pact in line with the Basque Country’s financial deal or a non-binding referendum in order to sound out the opinion of the Catalan people. Nevertheless, the efforts were all in vain, since they were all met with a resounding "no".
Having tried all the previous avenues for bringing an end to the conflict, the Catalan government has proposed that the problem is resolved by convening a referendum on independence on 1 October. As the whole world is well aware, the referendum is not being held with the approval of the Spanish state, which would have been desirable and which is the wish of the majority of the parliament and Catalan society as a whole. The National Pact for the Referendum was established with the express purpose of initiating a dialogue that was ultimately not forthcoming. Indeed, the Spanish justice system is currently investigating those responsible for the Pact —which was established with parliamentary approval and which was not challenged by the Constitutional Court—, as if it had engaged in illegal activities.
Far from opening the door to dialogue, Spain has unleashed an unprecedented offensive of repression which goes from limiting the fundamental right to the freedom of expression, the banning of public meetings and threats to news outlets, to the arrest of 75% of the mayors in Catalonia for declaring their intention to participate in the referendum. Meanwhile, it has brought criminal charges against the entire government of Catalonia and against most of the Parliamentary Bureau, closed the public information website on the referendum, banned the dissemination of information and advertising and has politicised bodies that ought to be independent, including the Constitutional Court and other judicial bodies. This is all in spite of the fact that the Spanish Criminal Code makes it clear that calling a referendum, even if it has not been negotiated with the state, does not constitute a crime.
Catalan society’s support for holding a referendum is unquestionable, however one wants to look at it. The election results confirm it, as do the parliamentary rulings and the mass demonstrations on successive Diadas [Catalonia’s National Day], which since 2012 have mobilised millions of people. These peaceful, convivial demonstrations have been praised by the international media as shining examples of civility.
For these reasons, we wish once more to call for dialogue with the Spanish government and its Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, in particular. A call for dialogue in order to discuss how we can agree on a means for the Catalan people to hold a referendum. An open dialogue without conditions. A political dialogue, based on the legitimacy of each party, to make possible what never ought to be a problem in a democracy, much less a crime: for it to listen to the voice of its people. For these reasons, we are calling on President Mariano Rajoy and are sending a copy to the head of state, HM King Felipe VI, in order to make it clear that refusing to engage in dialogue is incompatible with resolving a problem. Our willingness to hold a dialogue has always existed and will continue to stand.