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People walk past a doorway painted in the colors of the Catalan separatist flag in Barcelona, Spain, on Oct. 19. Photo by ...

Catalonia’s push to secede from Spain could cost the region its autonomy

The Spanish government is preparing to invoke a never-before-used article of its constitution to strip Catalonia’s autonomy, since the region’s president refuses to rescind its independence bid.

Thursday was the deadline for Catalan President Carles Puigdemont to suspend the northeastern region’s secession efforts. Instead, in a letter to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Puigdemont threatened to put secession to a formal vote in parliament if Spain does not engage in negotiations.

“If the central government persists in impeding dialogue and continuing its repression, Catalonia’s parliament may proceed … with a vote to formally declare independence,” he wrote.

The Spanish government responded that its Cabinet would meet Saturday to invoke Article 155 to “restore the constitutional order.” The Senate, which represents all of Spain’s regions, would need to pass the article on a majority vote.

Catalonia has been part of Spain since the 15th century, but was given autonomy when Spain became a republic in 1931. The region remains fiercely independent with its own language and culture. Most of the population lives in Barcelona.

In September, the federal government put restrictions on Catalonia’s finances, saying it couldn’t use public funds to organize an Oct. 1 referendum on independence, which Spain deemed illegal. Catalans went ahead with the referendum anyway, and voted overwhelmingly to secede from Spain.