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The Roots of the Catalan Independence Crisis

And What Madrid's Next Steps Should Be

Pro-unity supporters take part in a demonstration in central Barcelona, Spain, October 2017. Jon Nazca / REUTERS

After a secret, partially boycotted vote on Friday, the Catalan Parliament declared independence from Spain. Because of its own overwhelming vote in response, the Spanish government now exercises direct rule over Catalonia and will suspend Catalan security forces, interrupting the region’s institutions of self-rule for the first time in the country’s history as a democracy. Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau may have given the most apt summary of Friday’s events, by saying that Madrid has embarked on a “coup against democracy” in response to pro-secession parties’ “kamikaze dash” towards an independent Catalan republic that lacks majority support.

Since Puigdemont’s signing of the declaration of independence on October 10, Madrid has handled this political crisis deftly by putting the Catalan leader in an unenviable position to either back down from independence or escalate vis-à-vis Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s threat to impose direct rule. Spain’s direct

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