'Most powerful woman since democracy' put in charge of Catalonia in defiance of independence

  • Catalan region of Spain declared independence on Friday.
  • The government in Madrid doesn’t recognise the vote and dismissed the Catalan government.
  • Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria has been handed control of the region.

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria has been put in charge of the Catalan region amid a constitutional standoff.

The Catalan parliament voted for independence on Friday, following a referendum at the start of the month. Spain’s government in Madrid do not recognise the validity of either vote.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy fired the entire Catalan government, including President Carles Puigdemont, shortly after the vote and invoked Article 155, a constitutional provision that instated direct rule.

The BBC reports that Rajoy’s government handed control of the region to Saenz de Santamaria on Saturday morning.

Saenz de Santamaria, 46, has been Deputy Prime Minister since 2011. Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia called Saenz de Santamaria “the most powerful women since democracy” when she was first appointed. Her brief as Deputy Prime Minister includes control of the country’s intelligence services, the first time this has not been overseen by the Ministry of Defence.

Pro-independence demonstrations in Barcelona, the capital of Catalan, began on Friday night and went on into early Saturday morning. So far Madrid has taken no further action beyond official decrees. The BBC reports that Catalan President Carles Puigdemont arranged for his family to leave the country ahead of the parliamentary vote for fear that they could be arrested.

You can read more on the Spanish situation here.

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