The Spanish Government has moved to impose direct rule over Catalonia, stripping the region of its autonomy less than an hour after its Parliament declared independence in a stunning show of defiance.
- The Catalan Parliament voted to declare independence from Spain
- Spain a short time later took steps to assert direct rule over the region
- Some independence supporters reportedly plan to respond with civil disobedience
Although the Catalan declaration appears to be a doomed gesture, the developments take Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades to a new and possibly dangerous level.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for calm and said the rule of law would be restored in Catalonia, where secessionists have long cherished the dream of being a separate nation.
Mr Rajoy said his government was firing Catalonia’s regional government, dissolving its parliament and calling for a new regional election on December 21.
“Spain is living through a sad day,” Mr Rajoy said.
“We believe it is urgent to listen to Catalan citizens, to all of them, so that they can decide their future and nobody can act outside the law on their behalf.”
He also said it was firing the head of Catalan regional police, shutting down Catalonia’s foreign affairs department and dismissing its delegates in Brussels and Madrid.
A crowd of more than 2,000 independence supporters gathered in the Ciutadella Park outside the regional parliament in Barcelona, shouting “Liberty” in Catalan and singing traditional songs as the independence vote went through.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont left the chamber to shouts of “President!” and mayors who had come from outlying areas brandished their ceremonial batons and sang the Catalan anthem.
But immediately after the vote — which three opposition parties boycotted — Spanish shares and were bonds sold off, reflecting business concern over the turmoil in the wealthy region.
Within an hour, the upper house of Spain’s Parliament in Madrid authorised Mr Rajoy’s government to rule Catalonia directly — an unprecedented move in Spain since the return of democracy in the late 1970s.