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Catalonia's leader: 'We will declare independence in a matter of days'

  • Catalonia's pro-independence leader has said that the region will declare independence from Spain "in a matter of days."
  • Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, the head of Catalonia's devolved government Carles Puigdemont, said his administration would declare independence from Spain "act at the end of this week or the beginning of next."
The President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont (C) holds a press conference after a meeting with the members of the Catalan government at the Catalonian parliament building, also known as Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona, Spain on October 02, 2017 after the controversial Catalonia's illegitimate independence referendum.
Burak Akbulut | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont (C) holds a press conference after a meeting with the members of the Catalan government at the Catalonian parliament building, also known as Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona, Spain on October 02, 2017 after the controversial Catalonia's illegitimate independence referendum.

Catalonia's pro-independence leader has said that the region will declare independence from Spain "in a matter of days."

Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, the head of Catalonia's devolved government Carles Puigdemont said his administration would declare independence from Spain "at the end of this week or the beginning of next."

"We are going to declare independence 48 hours after all the official votes have been counted," he told the BBC Tuesday evening. When asked when that would be, Puigdemont said "this will probably finish once we have all the votes in from abroad at the end of the week."

"And therefore we will act over the weekend or early next week," he added. Puigdemont's comments come after a largely symbolic referendum on independence was held in Catalonia last Sunday.

Although only 2.26 million people out of an eligible 5.3 million Catalans voted, a turnout of around 42 percent, 90 percent of those who did go to the polls voted for independence.

The vote – deemed unconstitutional and illegal by the national Spanish government and Constitutional Court - was marred by a violent crackdown by Spanish police which left hundreds of people injured.

On Tuesday, a massive general strike in protest at the police action was held in Catalonia with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets, Reuters reported.

The latest comments from Catalan's independence figurehead Puigdemont throw the gauntlet down to Spain to do what it can to prevent one of the worst constitutional crises in the country's recent history.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has condemned the vote and on Tuesday, Spain's King Felipe got involved, showing how serious the matter has become.

In a televised address, King Felipe said the Catalan leaders had "infringed the system of legally approved rules with their decisions, showing an unacceptable disloyalty towards the powers of the state."

'Own goal'

Political analysts and economists are now waiting with baited breath to see how Spain will react in the next few days. There are widespread misgivings that Madrid's clampdown on the vote has only served to strengthen pro-independence sentiment in Catalonia.

Willem Buiter, global chief economist at Citigroup, told CNBC that the Spanish government had scored a "huge own goal" in its mishandling of the Catalonia crisis.

"What I've seen on television and read about in the papers looks like a huge own goal by the Spanish central government. Whatever the legality or illegality of this referendum, the sensible thing would have been to say: 'Go ahead and vote if you want, we won't recognize it but we'll view it as an opinion poll.' But instead they now have a first-order crisis on their hands potentially," he told CNBC Wednesday.

As one of the economists who coined the phrase "Grexit" - when Greece was at the height of its economic and political crisis and looked like it could leave the euro zone - Buiter knows a thing or two about countries in distress.

Looking at the current conflict between Catalonia and Spain, and the prospect that Madrid could attempt to take direct control of the Catalan government on any unilateral declaration of independence, Buiter said the outlook was worrying.

"If Catalonia now declares independence and the central government continues on its current course and imposes direct rule, the consequences could be really severe."