Catalonia finally declared independence — but Spain vows it won’t last long

Catalonia declared itself an independent republic on Friday. But nobody is sure how long it will last.

Within hours of an emotional vote by the Catalan Parliament, Spain’s prime minister announced that he would dismantle Cata­lonia’s government, suspend its ministers, dissolve its upstart legislature, take over the regional police and call home any Catalan diplomats abroad.

The orders were effective immediately. In a Europe where change once took place at a glacial pace, this was the latest surprise for a continent rocked by division and upset, populism and nationalism.

But how the central government will enforce its orders is the question everyone is asking. Will the national police carry out the new orders? Or will the separatist leaders in Barcelona step aside to fight another day?

The Spanish Senate gave the central government in Madrid unprecedented powers over Catalonia on Friday, sharply escalating the constitutional crisis.

The central government called for a clean slate and announced that there would be regional elections in late December.

But how new elections will quiet yearnings for independence in Catalonia is unclear.

It is possible that more Catalans than ever now want to break away from heavy-handed Spain.

The no-nonsense announcement of the get-tough measures against Catalonia came just hours after its Parliament declared independence and the streets of Barcelona filled with people celebrating, swilling cans of beer and sparkling wine, waving Catalan flags and greeting each other in partial amazement.

Many wept openly, including those old enough to remember the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, whose death in 1975 freed Spain to chart its modern course.

Others came out to taunt the national police sent by Madrid. There was celebration — but mixed with anxious jokes about when Spanish tanks would appear to take back the streets.

The day’s news came fast and furious.

Two historic and opposing votes — one for independence, one to restore constitutional rule — came in dueling sessions of parliaments in Barcelona and Madrid.

The central government easily won permission from the Senate to take control of Catalonia. Meanwhile, secessionists in Catalonia faced bitter recriminations from Catalan foes who called the move for nationhood a coup and a historic blunder, a month after a referendum that backed a split from Spain.