Using the formula, “the suspension of the political mandate emerging from the result at the polls on Oct. 1 demonstrates our firm determination for finding a solution and not for confrontation,” Puigdemont avoids answering either “Yes” or “No” and makes an offer of two months to conduct a dialogue. The letter ends with two very specific requests: to loosen the grip of police, judicial and financial repression (as the accounts of the Generalitat are still controlled by the central government), and to grant a face-to-face meeting with the head of the Spanish government.
It’s a very slippery answer, displeasing to some of his fellow separatists (and very much so to some of them), but it does not offer Rajoy a pretext to immediately put more restrictive measures into effect, such as applying the infamous Article 155 to Catalonia.
Spanish Vice President Soraya Saéz de Santamaría responded in turn (as Rajoy is away to Galicia, which was hit by a series of disastrous fires due to arson), saying that Puigdemont must give a clear answer to the question, and do so by Thursday, the day fixed by Rajoy for ‘setting straight’ the question of independence. The deadlines keep being extended, while the tones become just a bit less strident.
Behind this duel of words, one can see some subtle European intervention at work. Even amid official denials, it seems someone is trying to mediate between Rajoy and Puigdemont to avoid the worst kind of escalation. The PSOE still stands firm beside the PP, going so far as to clarify that they will agree together on the application of Article 155. If in the end the government should decide to activate it (after receiving the approval of the Senate), it seems that it may be limited to dissolving the Catalan government and calling new elections. This is an unwelcome solution for many Catalans, but overall less traumatic than many of the others being floated these days.