Immediately after he finished speaking inside the Parlament de Catalunya, the reactions of ordinary Catalans we spoke to on the streets outside the park were mixed, in some ways reflecting their leader’s carefully calibrated political triangulation. One dejected man told me that Puigdemont’s long-awaited speech — after the police violence witnessed across the region on referendum day — had been a bit disappointing.
“Let’s hope that this dialogue that our president wanted for our country, so that other countries would support us, is something that will happen,” he said, without much conviction. Another man, draped in the Catalan flag that hung from many buildings across the city that night, insisted it was a victory for the independence movement because, he said, “we are going for what we want.”
The response from the Spanish government was unequivocal and swift, and the following morning the attacks on Puigdemont turned personal. Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, made a blistering statement in which she said the Catalan leader “doesn’t know where he is, where he is going and with whom he wants to go.” And Puigdemont’s hope that European leaders might possibly intervene or jump-start mediation may have swiftly faded, with French President Emanuel Macron arguing against any mediation from the European Union.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy — with his reputation as a political survivor with unrivalled levels of strategic patience — subsequently played for further time in a measured statement later last week. He requested clarification from Puigdemont on whether the Catalan leader had indeed declared independence last Tuesday night. And by doing so, “put the ball back in Puigdemont’s side of the court,” according to Xavier Domenecq, a senior member of the Podemos party’s Catalan subsidiary, and a high-profile critic of Rajoy and his center-right Partido Popular in the Madrid parliament.