Catalonia Defies Madrid, Steps Up Separatist Challenge With Oct. 1 Vote

A Catalan independence protest in 2013 Times Square, New York. Photo: Liz Castro / Flickr

BARCELONA, Spain — Catalonia’s regional government has chosen Oct. 1 as the date for a referendum on a split from Spain, stepping up the confrontation with the country’s central government, which sees the vote as illegal.

Regional president Carles Puigdemont said Catalans will be asked if they want Catalonia to be an independent republic.

He made the long-awaited announcement in a televised statement, surrounded by members of his cabinet following a brief meeting.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government didn’t comment immediately but has previously said that it won’t allow the vote because it considers it unconstitutional.

Puigdemont has said he remains open to dialogue with Madrid but that the vote is nonnegotiable.

Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, accounts for a fifth of Spain’s GDP and has a population of over 7 million.