Catalonia Pushes For Independence From Spain

Lawmakers in the Spanish province of Catalonia have voted overwhelmingly in favor of holding a November referendum on independence from Spain. Madrid says it won't allow that to happen but it's unclear if it can stop the vote from taking place.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Many in the region of Catalonia in Spain are pushing to secede from the country, partly for cultural and partly for economic reasons. Naturally, the government of Spain opposes that. But yesterday, the regional parliament pressed the bid for independence a step further.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Lauren Frayer reports.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Catalan lawmakers in Barcelona have overwhelmingly endorsed a motion demanding that Spain give them the power to hold a referendum on independence. Catalan President Artur Mas praised democracy - in English -on his way out of the regional parliament.

PRESIDENT ARTUR MAS: As a democrat and as a Catalan, I am very happy.

FRAYER: He plans to hold that referendum in November, asking the Catalan people two questions: Do you think that Catalonia should be a state? And if so, do you want that state to be independent?

Another option is for Catalonia to re-negotiate its fiscal pact with Madrid. Polls show Catalans are roughly divided. Catalonia has its own language. The region is also wealthier than the rest of Spain, and Catalans resent paying taxes to Madrid.

As for the central government, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has made himself clear.

PRIME MINISTER MARIANO RAJOY: (Spanish spoken)

FRAYER: This referendum won't happen, he told reporters last month. It's unconstitutional, and it will not happen.

For now, Madrid says it won't renegotiate Catalonia's status. But it's unclear how it could prevent Catalans from holding a vote if they want to.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer, in Madrid.

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