Catalonia’s leader Carles Puigdemont said the region had won the right to break away from Spain after 90 percent of voters taking part in a banned referendum voted for independence, defying a sometimes violent police crackdown and fierce opposition from Madrid.
His declaration appeared to set the restive region on course for a deeper split with the Spanish government, after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated his government’s position that the vote was an illegal act, to which the state had reacted “with firmness and serenity”.
Any attempt to unilaterally declare independence is almost certain to be opposed not just by Madrid but also by a large section of the Catalan population which is deeply split on the issue.
The regional government said 2.26 million people actually took part in Sunday’s referendum, or 42.3 percent of the electorate.
A jubilant Puigdemont said his people had “won the right to an independent state” and urged the European Union to stop looking “the other way”.
Puigdemont has said that in the event of a “yes” victory he would declare independence for Catalonia, which accounts for 19 percent of Spain’s economic output.
At least 92 people were confirmed injured out of a total of 844 who needed medical attention, Catalan authorities said.
Further adding to tensions, unions and Catalan associations called a region-wide strike for Tuesday due to “the grave violation of rights and freedoms,” urging people to take to the streets.