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News this week: Catalonia in crisis

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Catalonia: what happens now?

Catalonia and Spain are in a standoff. On Friday morning, Catalonia's regional parliament in Barcelona voted to officially declare independence three weeks after its illegal 1 October referendum.

Meanwhile in Madrid, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he will institute direct rule of the region.

Catalonia has a distinct history dating back almost 1,000 years. Before the Spanish Civil War it enjoyed broad autonomy but that was suppressed under decades of Gen Francisco Franco's dictatorship from 1939-75.

When Franco died, Catalan nationalism was revived and eventually the north-eastern region was granted autonomy again, under the 1978 constitution.

It has its own language, parliament, flag and anthem.

Like Quebec, Catalonia is fiercely protective of its language and its culture, and it has a strong nationalist movement. With Barcelona as its capital, the region also has its own police force and controls some of its own public services, such as schools and healthcare.

But the 2008 economic crisis hit Spain hard, and the economy has remained weak. As one of Spain's wealthiest and most productive regions, there is a widespread feeling in Catalonia that the central government takes much more than it gives back.

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