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Catalan leader opens door to secession from Spain after vote

BARCELONA: Catalonia’s regional leader opened the door to a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain on Sunday after voters defied a violent police crackdown and, according to regional officials, voted 90 percent in favor of breaking away, reported Reuters.

Despite Spanish police using batons and rubber bullets to disrupt the banned referendum, which was declared unconstitutional by Madrid, the Catalan government said 2.26 million people had cast ballots, a turnout of about 42 percent.

Carles Puigdemont’s comments followed a television address by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy who ruled out independence and accused separatists of trying to “blackmail … the whole nation”. He offered all-party talks on the region’s future.

Catalan officials say more than 800 people were injured in clashes with Spanish riot police during the referendum, which has pitched the country into its deepest constitutional crisis in decades and deepened a rift between Madrid and Barcelona.

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