Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy has said he wants the country’s senate to give him direct power to dissolve the regional Catalan government and call an election as soon as possible.
Sr Rajoy said after a cabinet meeting that the central government needs to take the unprecedented step of assuming control of Catalonia to “restore order” in the face of a secession effort backed by the regional government.
He is proposing that the powers of Catalan officials be taken over by central government ministers.
Sr Rajoy’s government is activating a previously untapped constitutional article to take control of Catalonia.
The move is aimed at blocking the independence movement that has gained pace since a disputed October 1 referendum on separating Catalonia from Spain.
In the streets of Barcelona, banging pots and pans and honking cars greeted Sr Rajoy’s announcement.
At the national level, Pablo Echenique, a secretary in the far-left Podemos party, vowed to work to oust Sr Rajoy and his conservative Popular Party.
Pro-business Ciudadanos (Citizens) party president Albert Rivera says he supports the announced measures to heal divisions created by the Catalan independence movement and to provide the security companies need to remain in Catalonia.