Catalonia referendum result plunges Spain into political crisis

Updated 9:57 AM EDT, Mon October 2, 2017
People hold Catalan flags as they listen to Catalan President Carles Puigdemont speak via a televised press conference as they await the result of the Indepenence Referendum at the Placa de Catalunya on October 1 in Barcelona, Spain.
PHOTO: Chris McGrath/Getty Images
People hold Catalan flags as they listen to Catalan President Carles Puigdemont speak via a televised press conference as they await the result of the Indepenence Referendum at the Placa de Catalunya on October 1 in Barcelona, Spain.
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AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 09: Sergio Garcia of Spain celebrates during the Green Jacket ceremony after he won in a playoff during the final round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
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Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy asked the Senate for the go-ahead to depose Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his executive in a bid to stop their independence drive. The central government has invoked the never-before-used article 155 of the Constitution, designed to rein in rebel regions, as it seeks to end Catalonia's drive to break from Spain.
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Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy attends a session of the Upper House of Parliament in Madrid on October 27, 2017. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy asked the Senate for the go-ahead to depose Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his executive in a bid to stop their independence drive. The central government has invoked the never-before-used article 155 of the Constitution, designed to rein in rebel regions, as it seeks to end Catalonia's drive to break from Spain.
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People wave 'Esteladas' (pro-independence Catalan flags) as they gather during a pro-independence demonstration, on September 11, 2017 in Barcelona during the National Day of Catalonia, the "Diada."
Hundreds of thousands of Catalans were expected to rally to demand their region break away from Spain, in a show of strength three weeks ahead of a secession referendum banned by Madrid. The protest coincides with Catalonia's national day, the "Diada," which commemorates the fall of Barcelona in the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714 and the region's subsequent loss of institutions and freedoms.
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People wave 'Esteladas' (pro-independence Catalan flags) as they gather during a pro-independence demonstration, on September 11, 2017 in Barcelona during the National Day of Catalonia, the "Diada." Hundreds of thousands of Catalans were expected to rally to demand their region break away from Spain, in a show of strength three weeks ahead of a secession referendum banned by Madrid. The protest coincides with Catalonia's national day, the "Diada," which commemorates the fall of Barcelona in the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714 and the region's subsequent loss of institutions and freedoms. / AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Catalan President Carles Puigdemont speaks during a statement at the Palau Generalitat in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Catalonia's regional president, Carles Puigdemont, is addressing regional lawmakers on Monday to review a referendum won by supporters of independence from Spain on Oct. 1. (Jordi Bedmar/Presidency Press Service, Pool Photo via AP)
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Catalan President Carles Puigdemont speaks during a statement at the Palau Generalitat in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Catalonia's regional president, Carles Puigdemont, is addressing regional lawmakers on Monday to review a referendum won by supporters of independence from Spain on Oct. 1. (Jordi Bedmar/Presidency Press Service, Pool Photo via AP)
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Spanish National Police clashes with pro-referendum supporters in Barcelona Sunday, Oct. 1 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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Story highlights

Number of injured rises to 893 after Spanish police crackdown

UN human rights chief calls for inquiry into violence

(CNN) —  

Spain is facing a political and constitutional crisis after Catalans voted in favor of independence in a contested referendum that descended into chaos when police launched a widespread and violent crackdown.

The Catalan government said it had earned the right to split from Spain after results showed 90% of those who voted were in favor of a split.

But amid an unexpectedly harsh response from Spanish police, turnout was only around 42%. The Catalan health ministry said 893 people were injured in the clashes Sunday as riot police raided polling stations, dragged away voters and fired rubber bullets.

The Catalan President Carles Puigdemont denounced the police crackdown as the worst violence Catalonia had seen since the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and demanded the withdrawal of Spanish national forces from the region.

People help a man injured by a rubber bullet fired by Spanish police officers outside the Ramon Llull polling station in Barcelona.
PHOTO: FABIO BUCCIARELLI/AFP/Getty Images
People help a man injured by a rubber bullet fired by Spanish police officers outside the Ramon Llull polling station in Barcelona.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called for “independent and impartial investigations into all acts of violence” around the independence referendum, and asked the Spanish government to allow UN human rights experts to visit.

“Police responses must at all times be proportionate and necessary,” he said in a statement. “I firmly believe that the current situation should be resolved through political dialogue, with full respect for democratic freedoms,” he added.

Trade unions in Catalonia called a strike and a mass demonstration for Tuesday, an action likely to test public support for the Catalan government in the aftermath of Sunday’s chaos.

The Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy said it was discussing its response with opposition parties in Madrid.

’No traumatic break’

All eyes were on the Catalan government as it considered its next move. Under the referendum legislation passed by the Catalan parliament, the regional government has 48 hours after the result is finalized to declare independence from Spain. Final votes were still being counted Monday.

The Catalan President stopped short of declaring independence from Spain Monday – a move that would further deepen the crisis. But Puigdemont called for an international arbiter to mediate the crisis, ideally the European Union. “This moment needs mediation,” he said. “We only received violence and repression as an answer.”

Puigdemont said Catalonia did not want a “traumatic break” with Madrid. “We want a new understanding with the Spanish state,” he said.

If the Catalan government unilaterally declared independence from Spain, Rajoy could suspend the President and take over the running of the province. Such a move would inflame tensions considerably and would likely be a last resort for Rajoy.

Several thousand people gathered outside Barcelona’s town hall Tuesday morning where the executive of the autonomous Catalan government was meeting.

People shouted “Long live free Catalonia, we are peaceful people and we only want to vote.”