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Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy addresses the media after a cabinet's meeting after a extraordinary plenary session where the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution was approved, at La Moncloa palace in Madrid, Spain, Oct. 27, 2017. EPA-EFE/Juanjo Martin
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy addresses the media after a cabinet's meeting after a extraordinary plenary session where the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution was approved, at La Moncloa palace in Madrid, Spain, Oct. 27, 2017…

Spain dissolves Catalan government, calls early regional elections

Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced Friday he would dismantle the government of Catalonia and convened new regional elections, just hours after…

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Just three hours after the Catalan Parliament approved a declaration of independence, Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced Friday the dissolution of the government and parliament of Catalonia and convened new elections in the northeastern region for Dec. 21.

 In an extraordinary Cabinet meeting, the Spanish government agreed to carry on with the plan -  approved earlier Friday by the Senate - to re-establish constitutional legality following the Catalan parliament's unilateral declaration of independence.

   Responding to the secessionist challenge, the Spanish government ordered the dismissal of Catalonia's regional president, Carles Puigdemont, and vice president, Oriol Junqueras, and of all of their colleagues, whose functions are to be assumed by the appropriate national ministries.

   The Cabinet likewise dismissed the top officials of the Catalan regional interior department and ordered the closure of all of Catalonia's missions abroad, with the exception of the office in Brussels.

   Catalonia, according to the regional government Web site, has delegations in Germany, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland, Austria and Italy, along with the Brussels mission, which deals with European Union matters.

   In addition to the executive actions, the Cabinet agreed to ask Spain's Constitutional Court to overturn the Catalan parliament's declaration of independence.

   The Catalan parliament approved the declaration by a vote of 70-10 with two ballots left blank, The regional chamber has 135 seats.

   The Catalan regional branches of Spain's main political parties - the ruling conservative Popular Party, the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the center-right Ciudadanos - all walked out and refused to take part in the independence vote, calling it unconstitutional.

   Crowds began to build in Barcelona's main squares with many jubilant supporters waving pro-independence flags.

   A few minutes later, Spain's Senate voted to withdraw Catalonia's autonomy by a vote of 214-47 with one abstention.

   Rajoy said that "the rule of law would restore legality to Catalonia" and urged Spaniards to remain calm.

   Initial reactions from around the world gave support to Spain but also called on its government to show restraint in dealing with the situation.

   The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said nothing would change for the EU, who would continue considering Spain as a united Europe's only interlocutor in the issue.

   "I hope the Spanish government favors force of argument, not argument of force," he said on his official Twitter account.

   The United States Department of State also voiced its backing for Spain, insisting that the two countries were close allies with a great friendship.

   "Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government's constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united," read a statement by spokesperson Heather Nauert.

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