Catalonia Declares Independence As Spain Prepares To Impose Direct Rule

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THE Catalan Parliament voted overwhelmingly to declare independence from Spain on Friday, prompting the Spanish Senate to grant Madrid unprecedented powers to seize control of the autonomous region.

The day’s dramatic and fast-moving events pushed Spain into uncharted territory, testing the limits of the country’s Constitution drawn up after the restoration of democracy in the 1970s.

Amid extraordinary scenes in the regional capital of Barcelona, Catalan lawmakers voted to “form the Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign state” by 70 to 10.

Opposition parties walked out of the chamber just before the vote, a culmination of a weeks-long standoff with Madrid that began with a disputed referendum on October 1.

Pro-independence crowds massed outside the Parliament cheered and waved the Catalan separatist “Estelada” flag as the result was announced.

Less than an hour later, the Spanish Senate granted the Madrid government powers under Article 155 of the Constitution to sack the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his ministers.

The Spanish government called two Cabinet meetings for later Friday. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has pledged to quash the separatists, and moves to take over the Catalan administration are expected to begin at the weekend.

“Spain is a serious country, a great nation and we will not allow some people to blow up our Constitution,” Rajoy told journalists in Madrid.

He urged Spanish citizens to remain calm, saying that the government will respond to the situation in a “proportionate way.”

“The government will make any decisions needed to go back to legality, and we will do that this evening,” he said.

Spain’s general prosecutor confirmed it would file a lawsuit for rebellion against Puigdemont, the Catalan government and the members of the parliament board who voted in favor of independence.

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