President of regional government (ousted): Carles Puigdemont
Carles Puigdemont become head of the Catalan autonomous government in January 2016 as part of a deal between two pro-independence parties - Convergence and Union, of which he is deputy leader, and the Together for Yes alliance.
A journalist by profession and former mayor of the city of Girona, Mr Puigdemont moved rapidly to assert his separatist credentials. He refused to swear allegiance to King Felipe VI, and set October 2017 as the date for an independence referendum.
A non-binding referendum in 2014 had backed independence, and separatist parties triumphed at early elections in 2015. The government saw the decisive vote for an independent state in October 2017 as a final mandate to declare a Catalan Republic later that month.
The Spanish government promptly carried out its threat to dismiss Mr Puigdemont's administration and impose direct rule, as provided for by the Spanish Constitution. It threatened Catalan leaders with prosecution for rebellion, and scheduled new regional elections for December 2017.
Mr Puigdemont has refused to back down, and called on Catalans to oppose direct rule by peaceful means.
Catalonia's autonomy statute gives the regional authority - the Generalitat - broad powers of self-government within Spain, especially on matters such as culture, education, health, transport, public safety and commerce. It is the only Spanish region to have its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra.