Spain gives Catalan leader 8 days to drop independence

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told Spain’s parliament the Catalan government had until Monday, October 16 at 0800 GMT to answer. (Reuters)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Spain gives Catalan leader 8 days to drop independence

MADRID/BARCELONA: Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday gave the Catalan government eight days to drop an independence bid, failing which he would suspend Catalonia’s political autonomy and rule the region directly.
His move could deepen the confrontation between Madrid and the northeastern region but also signals a way out of Spain’s biggest political crisis since a failed military coup in 1981.
Rajoy would probably call a snap regional election after activating Article 155 of the constitution that would allow him to sack the Catalan regional government.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont issued a symbolic declaration of independence from Spain on Tuesday night but then immediately suspended it and called for negotiations with the Madrid government.
“The cabinet has agreed this morning to formally request the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared the independence of Catalonia, regardless of the deliberate confusion created over its implementation,” Rajoy said in a televised address after a cabinet meeting called to consider the government’s response.
He later told Spain’s parliament the Catalan government had until Monday, October 16 at 0800 GMT to answer. If Puigdemont was to confirm he did declare independence, he would be given an additional three days to rectify it, until Thursday, October 19 at 0800 GMT. Failing this, Article 155 would be triggered.
It is not yet clear if the Catalan government will answer the requirement but it now faces a conundrum, analysts say.
If Puigdemont says he did proclaim independence, the central government will step in. If he says he did not declare it, then far-left party CUP would probably withdraw its support for his minority government.
“Rajoy has two objectives: if Puigdemont remains ambiguous, the pro-independence movement will get more fragmented; if Puigdemont insists on defending independence then Rajoy will be able to apply Article 155,” said Antonio Barroso, deputy director of the London-based research firm Teneo Intelligence.
“Either way, Rajoy’s aim would be to first restore the rule of law in Catalonia and this could at some point lead to early elections in the region.”
The stakes are high — losing Catalonia, which has its own language and culture, would deprive Spain of a fifth of its economic output and more than a quarter of exports.
Puigdemont had been widely expected to unilaterally declare Catalonia’s independence on Tuesday after the Catalan government said 90 percent of Catalans had voted for a breakaway in an October 1 referendum. Central authorities in Madrid had declared the referendum illegal and most opponents of independence boycotted it, reducing turnout to around 43 percent.
Madrid responded angrily to Puigdemont’s speech to Catalonia’s parliament, saying his government could not act on the results of the referendum.
“Neither Mr. Puigdemont nor anyone else can claim, without returning to legality and democracy, to impose mediation... Dialogue between democrats takes place within the law,” Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said.


MGM sues Vegas shooting victims in push to avoid liability

Updated 10 min 26 sec ago
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MGM sues Vegas shooting victims in push to avoid liability

  • The company argues in lawsuits that it has “no liability of any kind” to survivors or families of slain victims
  • Victims with active lawsuits against MGM don’t face the company’s legal claim

LAS VEGAS: MGM Resorts International has sued hundreds of victims of the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history in a bid to avoid liability for the gunfire that rained down from its Mandalay Bay casino-resort in Las Vegas.
The company argues in lawsuits filed in Nevada, California, New York and other states this week and last that it has “no liability of any kind” to survivors or families of slain victims under a federal law enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The lawsuits target victims who have sued the company and voluntarily dismissed their claims or have threatened to sue after a gunman shattered the windows of his Mandalay Bay suite and fired on a crowd gathered below for a country music festival.
High-stakes gambler Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more last year before killing himself. Victims with active lawsuits against MGM don’t face the company’s legal claim.
MGM says the 2002 law limits liabilities when a company or group uses services certified by the US Department of Homeland Security and mass attacks occur. The company says it is not liable because its security vendor for the concert, Contemporary Services Corp., was federally certified at the time of the Oct. 1 shooting.
MGM claims the victims — through actual and threatened lawsuits — have implicated CSC’s services because they involve concert security, including training, emergency response and evacuation.
“If defendants were injured by Paddock’s assault, as they allege, they were inevitably injured both because Paddock fired from his window and because they remained in the line of fire at the concert. Such claims inevitably implicate security at the concert — and may result in loss to CSC,” according to the MGM lawsuits.
CSC’s general counsel, James Service, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it doesn’t comment on litigation involving the company or a third party.
MGM wants a court to declare that the US law “precludes any finding of liability” against the company “for any claim for injuries arising out of or related to Paddock’s mass attack.”
Brian Claypool, an attorney who was at the music festival during the shooting, called the lawsuits a “hypocritical maneuver” that will turn into a “public relations nightmare for MGM.”
“We collectively view this as a bullying tactic to intimidate the survivors who are rightfully seeking social change and redress through the litigation process,” Claypool, who represents dozens of victims, said in a statement.
MGM spokeswoman Debra DeShong said Congress determined that federal courts should handle any lawsuits over mass attacks where federally certified security services were provided.
“While we expected the litigation that followed, we also feel strongly that victims and the community should be able to recover and find resolution in a timely manner,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
Attorney Robert Eglet, who represents victims in a lawsuit pending in federal court in Nevada, also decried the casino operator’s move, saying the company is filing complaints nationwide in search of a sympathetic judge. He told AP he has been flooded with calls from victims.
“This is absolute gamesmanship. It’s outrageous. It’s just pouring gasoline on the fire of (the victims’) suffering,” Eglet said. “They are very distraught, very upset over this. MGM is trying to intimidate them.”