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Catalonia ‘Won Right to Independence’ in Bloody Referendum, President Says

Carlos Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia’s government, said Monday that the Spanish region had won the right to declare a new republic following Sunday’s independence referendum.

The referendum was a chaotic and bloody affair, as Spanish military police raided polling stations and clashed with voters. Catalan officials said more than 800 people had been injured in the clashes.

Spain’s conservative government has bitterly opposed the referendum, which was illegal under the country’s constitution. However, despite crackdowns that ranged from the physical to the virtual, the referendum managed a turnout of 42.3% — and of those 2.2 million people who voted, just over 90% opted for Catalonian independence.

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“With this day of hope and suffering, the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form of a republic,” Puigdemont said in a televised address, according to the BBC.

The president of the Catalan administration said his government would forward the results of the plebiscite to the region’s parliament “in the next few days” so it could take the matter further. However, Spanish president Mariano Rajoy insists that no legal referendum took place.

Catalonia already has limited autonomy within Spain, as do other regions, but many have been pushing for full-blown independence over recent decades.

The region has its own language and, crucially, is Spain’s industrial hub. One key argument for independence is that Catalonia is a relatively rich region of the country that subsidizes poorer regions — to an excessive degree, separatists say.

If Catalonia does declare independence from Spain, the move may lead to a crisis across the E.U., as many other countries there also have separatist movements in various regions.