Catalonia poses a real crisis for both Spain and Europe

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In the aftermath of Sunday’s independence referendum in Catalonia, the rifts in Spanish society are only growing wider. “With each passing day, national authorities and the pro-independence forces in Catalonia appear to be moving inexorably toward direct confrontation,” wrote my colleague William Booth.

The past few days have seen heated protests and a general strike in Catalonia, an economically prosperous region in northeastern Spain whose local government unilaterally staged the independence vote over the weekend. The bruising handling of the situation by right-wing Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who deployed security forces to Catalonia who bloodied unarmed protesters, has hardened Catalan attitudes against Madrid. And as both sides dig in, the showdown may trigger a constitutional crisis that would have profound ramifications not just for Spain but for all of Europe.

Catalan’s separatist leaders say that more than 2 million people were still able to cast ballots, the vast majority of which were for secession from Spain. Officials in the region suggested they could formally declare independence as early as this coming Monday. On Wednesday, Spain’s high court launched an investigation into possible sedition

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