Spain Will Fire Catalonia Leaders, Force New Elections Spain's prime minister says he's firing the Catalan regional government and forcing elections in six months. Separatists flood Barcelona's streets in protest.

Spain Will Fire Catalonia Leaders, Force New Elections

Spain Will Fire Catalonia Leaders, Force New Elections

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Spain's prime minister says he's firing the Catalan regional government and forcing elections in six months. Separatists flood Barcelona's streets in protest.


Spain says it's firing the independent regional government that has been in charge of Catalonia in Northeast Spain. The move is the latest in a series of escalations between Spain and Catalonia after separatists held an independence referendum October 1 and have been pushing to secede from Spain. Now the Spanish government is cracking down on Catalonia, and protesters have taken to the streets of the Catalan capital, Barcelona, to criticize the move, as Lauren Frayer reports.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Three weeks after Catalan separatist leaders presided over a banned independence referendum, Spain's prime minister says he's firing them all.



FRAYER: "First, I'm firing the Catalan regional president, the vice president and all Catalan government ministers," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told reporters today in Madrid. Then he says he'll force fresh elections in Catalonia within six months...


RAJOY: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "To recover the rule of law and coexistence," Rajoy said. He's allowed to do all of this under Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which has never been invoked in four decades of democracy here. In 1978, Spain reversed the centralized power of the late dictator Francisco Franco and gave its regions some self-governance. Now, Rajoy is taking it back from Catalonia pending Senate approval next week. Moments after Rajoy spoke, on the other side of the country in the Catalan capital, Barcelona, people emerged on balconies...


FRAYER: ...Clanging pots and pans in a chorus of dissent. Ever since Spain's economic crisis, some in Catalonia, the country's richest region, have resented subsidizing poorer parts of Spain.

MARGARIDA BOADA: It's very grave.

FRAYER: Margarida Boada was among the protesters streaming into Barcelona's city center. She's upset her regional government is about to be dissolved.

BOADA: Those are our political representatives. They have been voted, so nobody has the right to do this.

FRAYER: In the crowd of protesters, a choir assembled, singing the Catalan national anthem...

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing in Spanish).

FRAYER: ...And then broke into a chants. Not one step further, they yelled, calling the Spanish government takeover a coup.


FRAYER: After nightfall, the Catalan separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont, whom the prime minister had hours earlier vowed to depose, made a televised speech.


CARLES PUIGDEMONT: (Speaking in Catalan).

FRAYER: Speaking in Catalan, he accused Rajoy of acting undemocratically like the late dictator, Franco. Then he switched to English, addressing Europe.


PUIGDEMONT: Democratically deciding the future of a nation is not a crime.

FRAYER: The Catalan leader said he would ask his regional Parliament to debate this liquidation of Catalonia's self-rule. He has about a week before the Spanish Senate is likely to approve measures that leave Puigdemont amount out of a job. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.

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