Catalan Parliament Formally Declares Independence

Oct 27, 2017
Originally published on October 27, 2017 11:08 am

In a move that has pushed Spain deeper into a political crisis, Catalonia's Parliament on Friday declared independence. In response, the Spanish Senate approved direct rule of the breakaway region. NPR's Rachel Martin talks to reporter Lucia Benavides, who is not far from the Parliament building.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In a move that has pushed Spain deeper into a political crisis, the Catalan Parliament has formally declared independence today. In response, the Spanish Senate has just approved direct rule of the breakaway region. We've reached reporter Lucia Benavides who is there in Catalan. I understand, Lucia, you're outside - very near the parliament building where the vote took place. I mean, can you just get us up to speed? Those are two very dramatic votes today, right?

LUCIA BENAVIDES, BYLINE: Yeah, definitely. So I'm outside of a huge crowd of people where they have set up big screens where they were streaming the voting session live. And there's still a lot of people here. There's more people coming - everyone with their Catalan flags. There's tractors parked out here from people coming in from the countryside in protest. And there's a - I can hear a man speaking in a loud - in a speakerphone, presumably talking about, you know, what the votes mean and what's coming next.

MARTIN: So what do these votes mean, Lucia? - because for weeks now there's been this back and forth - the Spanish government insisting that the leaders of Catalana needed to clarify, were they going to break away or not? It seems that today that has been clarified.

BENAVIDES: Yeah. And so yesterday, actually, what happened was the parliament - the Catalan government was going to call for real elections if the Spanish government promised to stop 155 from taking place. The Spanish government said...

MARTIN: We should say 155 is this article. It's part of the Constitution that gives the Spanish government direct control over Catalonia.

BENAVIDES: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. And so the Spanish governments did say that they would go ahead with invoking this article. And so the Catalan government said fine. Then we won't call for re-elections. That was kind of the last attempt at a more peaceful resolution out of all of this. And so today everyone was expecting today for Catalonia to declare independence. And actually, right before the votes, half of the Catalan Parliament of the government stood up and walked out of the room. So I believe there were about 50-something people that didn't vote on the issue.

MARTIN: So this is not unanimous within the Catalan government?

BENAVIDES: No. It's very split down the middle. The more conservative political parties are very much for engaging in dialogue with Spain and not declaring independence. The more leftist political parties from the start were pushing for independence and were saying, we don't even want to engage in conversation. We want to declare because we have a right to because the referendum results showed that 90 percent of people want independence. So it's...

MARTIN: Just briefly then, Lucia, what does happen next? I mean, this is a big standoff at this point. Can there be a peaceful resolution?

BENAVIDES: It's hard to say right now. So the Spanish government will take control of the region, whether it's today or tomorrow. It's unclear. They're expected to arrest Puigdemont, the Catalan president. They're expected to take out of office all of the Catalan government and replace them with Spanish officials. They're also expected to take over Catalan public media and take over control of public schools. So...

MARTIN: OK. We will keep following this - clearly, a breaking news story with lots of developments. Lucia Benavides, reporter in Barcelona, Spain today for us - thanks so much, Lucia.

BENAVIDES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.