Tampa Bay Times

Spain thwarts secession move

- Associated Press Associated Press

The government cracks down after Catalonia declares independen­ce.

BARCELONA, Spain — In one of the most momentous days in recent Spanish history, Spain fired Catalonia’s regional government and dissolved its parliament Friday after a defiant Catalan declaratio­n of independen­ce that flouted the country’s constituti­on.

Lawmakers in the Catalan parliament voted to unilateral­ly declare independen­ce, prompting the swift crackdown by the Spanish government, which also called an early election in the region.

Hours after Catalonia’s secession move, the Spanish Senate granted the government special constituti­onal powers to stop the wealthy region’s move toward independen­ce.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservati­ve government then called an urgent Cabinet meeting late Friday, after which Rajoy emerged to announce the emergency measures, including regional elections called for Dec. 21.

In Barcelona, Catalonia’s regional capital, Rajoy’s announceme­nt in a televised address was greeted with jeers and whistles of disapprova­l from crowds who had gathered at the gates of the government palace to celebrate their parliament’s moves toward independen­ce.

“It’s not about suspending or meddling in the self-government (of Catalonia), but to return it to normality and legality as soon as possible,” Rajoy said.

The government and Spain’s Constituti­onal Court have both said the secession bid was illegal, and after Friday’s independen­ce vote, Rajoy said it was a move that “not only goes against the law but is a criminal act.”

Rajoy also said he was firing What does Catalonia want?

The Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona passed a motion Friday unilateral­ly establishi­ng a new country. The motion was approved by the votes of pro-independen­ce lawmakers, with 70 out of 135 votes in favor of secession. The Catalan regional government supported the breakaway bid, though opposition lawmakers walked out of the chamber ahead of the vote in protest. Secessioni­sts hold a slim majority in the current parliament.

What does the Spanish government say?

The national government rejects Catalan independen­ce, noting the constituti­on says Spain is “indivisibl­e.”

Who will win?

After the Senate on Friday granted the government extraordin­ary powers to end the Catalan secession drive, the government dismissed the Catalan regional government, dissolved its parliament and called an early election for Dec. 21.

The pro-independen­ce leaders and officials risk being arrested and sent to prison. the head of the Catalan regional police, shutting down the Catalan government’s overseas offices, and dismissing its representa­tives in Madrid and in Brussels, where the European Union has its headquarte­rs.

After the Catalan parliament independen­ce vote, Rajoy said it was a move that “in the opinion of a large majority of people not only goes against the law but is a criminal act.”

The Senate’s decision giving Rajoy special powers trumped the Catalan regional parliament’s vote to secede, which was doomed because the Constituti­onal Court has already consistent­ly ruled against any steps toward independen­ce.

The battle around Catalonia’s future is far from over, however.

Madrid’s move to take away Catalonia’s regional powers was sure to be seen as a humiliatio­n and a provocatio­n by Catalans and a backlash was expected, with planned street protests and the possibilit­y that regional government workers could follow a policy of disobedien­ce or non-cooperatio­n.

On top of that, the Dec. 21 election could deliver a steadfastl­y pro-independen­ce Catalan parliament, even if recent polls have suggested the region of 7.5 million people is roughly evenly split on secession.

Many Catalans strongly oppose independen­ce and a group of so-called unionists was organizing a large-scale protest in Barcelona on Sunday.

A spokesman for Spain’s prosecutor’s office, meanwhile, said it would seek to bring rebellion charges against those responsibl­e for the Catalan independen­ce vote.

 ?? Associated Press ?? People wave estelada or pro-independen­ce flags Friday in Barcelona, Spain, after Catalonia’s regional parliament passed a motion establishi­ng an independen­t Catalan Republic.
Associated Press People wave estelada or pro-independen­ce flags Friday in Barcelona, Spain, after Catalonia’s regional parliament passed a motion establishi­ng an independen­t Catalan Republic.
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