BARCELONA -UNS: Catalonia woke up Saturday under the direct control of Madrid as the Spanish prime minister took drastic measures to quash secession, deposing the region’s leaders and dissolving its parliament hours after lawmakers declared independence.
In a dramatic escalation of a political crisis that has stoked alarm in Europe and sent shockwaves through Spain, Mariano Rajoy also decided to call snap Catalan elections on December 21 to “restore normality” to a region in turmoil.
All eyes this weekend will be on whether Catalonia’s separatist executive willingly steps down and independence supporters carry out their threat of peaceful resistance to Madrid’s takeover.
In the Spanish capital, protesters were due to hit the streets Saturday against Catalonia’s declaration of independence, which while lacking any legal basis has caused strife in a region deeply divided on whether to split from Spain.
On Friday in Barcelona and other Catalan cities, thousands celebrated their regional parliament’s motion for independence, which passed with 70 votes for, 10 against and two absentions in a 135-seat chamber that anti-secession MPs had deserted in protest.
Demonstrators in Barcelona broke out in ecstatic shouts of: “Independence!” as the result was announced, while separatist MPs cheered, clapped and embraced before breaking out in the Catalan anthem.
But others glumly assessed the fallout to what they viewed as a hugely damaging and illegal vote.
“They’re forgetting part of the people, the majority,” said Josep Reina, a 34-year-old salesman.
– Fears of unrest –
The move to take over Catalan powers is likely to anger many in a region of some 7.5 million people that enjoyed considerable autonomy, with control over its education, healthcare and police.
It is the first time that the central government has curtailed regional autonomy since dictator Francisco Franco’s repressive 1939-75 rule.