It came nearly a month after over 90% of Catalans voted to separate from Spain.
What should have been declared within days of the vote took weeks because President Puigdemont was indecisive, trying to curry favor with Madrid instead of doing his duty.
Parliamentarians acted instead, secretly voting 72 – 10 with two abstentions for separation – a historic moment that’s only the beginning of a long struggle.
“We hereby constitute the Catalan Republic as an independent, sovereign, legal, democratic, socially-conscious state,” the declaration said.
Separation took nearly a century to be achieved – if Catalans can keep it. More on this below.
The movement for independence began in 1922, the newly formed Estat Catala (Catalan State) party behind it.
In 1931, its leader Francesc Catala proclaimed a Catalan republic – then settled for autonomy after negotiations with Madrid.
In 1938, Francisco Franco abolished Catalan autonomy, restored after his 1975 death. The modern independence movement began in 2006.
From 2009 – 2011, hundreds of Catalan municipalities held symbolic independence referendums, all strongly favoring separation from Spain.
In July 2010, over a million Catalans rallied for independence in Barcelona, the region’s capital, an unprecedented turnout. Banners displayed said “We are a nation. We decide.”
In September 2012, a second mass demonstration was held. Organizers called on regional officials to begin the separation process.
A pro-independence parliamentary majority made it possible, beginning in 2013 by adopting the Catalan Sovereignty Declaration.
It asserted the right of its people “to initiate the process to exercise the right to decide so that the citizens of Catalonia may decide their collective political future in accordance with the following principles: sovereignty, democratic legitimacy, transparency, dialogue, social cohesion, Europeanism, legality, role of the Catalan Parliament and participation.”
MPs passed the declaration by over a two-thirds majority. Spain’s Constitutional Court (its highest judicial body) declared it null and void.
Things came to a head with the October 1 referendum, over 90% of Catalans voting for independence.
Following Friday’s declaration of independence, thousands of Catalans celebrated in Barcelona and elsewhere in the region.
Following the declaration, Spain’s Senate imposed regime rule over the region – voting 214 in favor and 47 against. Spanish PM Rajoy tweeted: “I ask all Spaniards to be calm. The state of law will restore legality in Catalonia” – an ominous warning.
This evening, Rajoy will meet with cabinet members to decide their next move.
Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras tweeted: “Yes, we have won the freedom to build a new country.”
Pro-independence Catalans celebrated the news. One leading group said “Welcome Catalan Republic. Between us all we will make you fair and dignified.”
Another urged its followers to “fill the streets” following the historic vote. Commenting on the momentous day, political risk analyst Antonio Barroso said “(t)he clash is here and it won’t be pretty.”
“Tensions are likely to rise significantly over the coming days, especially as secessionist groups mobilize to stop the implementation of Article 155.”
The next move is up to Rajoy. He’ll likely sack Puigdemont and other Catalan officials, perhaps order their arrest, along with appointing Madrid administrators to run the region – likely enforced by militarized control, further heightening tensions.
Violence and chaos could follow, Catalans turning out en masse to resist Madrid, this time perhaps met by heavily armed soldiers, national police and civil guards.
Turbulence may go on for days or weeks, mass arrests likely, chaos much worse than on referendum day, perhaps blood in the streets if Rajoy chooses to be combative.
War with Britain raged before and after America’s declaration of independence. Russia’s 1917 revolution against czarist rule was bloody.
Revolutionary change is never easy. Declaring Catalan independence was simple. Now comes the hard part.
The key issue is can they keep what they declared? Madrid may use force to prevent it.