Barcelona: Lawmakers in Catalonia declared independence from Spain on Friday in a defiant move that divided the breakaway region and sharply escalated a confrontation for control with Madrid.
The vote came after staged dueling sessions that underscored the deepening showdown. The central government pressed for permission to take over control of Catalonia. Meanwhile, secessionists in Catalonia faced bitter recriminations from Catalan foes who called the move for statehood a coup and a huge historical blunder, a month after a referendum that backed a split from Spain.
The impasse has left little middle ground in Spain for possible compromises and has spilled over to the European Union, whose leaders fear another internal crisis after major upheavals such as Britain’s exit from the bloc and the financial meltdown in Greece.
The final ballot was 70-10 in favor of the declaration of independence in the closed-door voting. But 55 deputies declined to vote, showing the deep divisions.
“We have won the freedom to build a new country,” Catalonia’s vice president Oriol Junqueras tweeted.
Earlier in Mardir, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged the Senate to grant the central government unprecedented powers to establish control over Catalonia. If the Senate invokes the never-before-used Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution, the central government could move swiftly to remove the Catalan president, suspend his ministers and assume authority over the region’s public media, police and finances.
In Barcelona, shouts of “independence!” and “democracy!” rose from an antechamber where hundreds of onlookers, including dozens of regional mayors, had gathered. The eruption was answered by disdain from anti-secessionists in the chamber. A member of the Catalan Socialist Party, Daniel Fernández, asked: “What is this? The storming of the Bastille?”
On Thursday, facing a looming deadline to act, Puigdemont appeared in the government palace in Barcelona and said the regional parliament must decide what will happen next.
Puigdemont’s words Thursday clearly upset many of his constituents, who believed they were getting close to forming a new republic.
More than 2 million people cast ballots earlier this month for independence, though the turnout for the referendum was around 40 percent of eligible voters. During the vote, Spanish national police and Guardia Civil paramilitary officers used harsh tactics, in some cases beating voters with rubber batons and dragging people away from the ballot boxes.