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Catalonia government hit by resignations in pre-referendum crisis

Three prominent members of Catalonia's government have quit just months before the referendum for the region's independence from Spain

14 July 2017, 2:34pm
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont (L) and Catalan regional vice-President and chief of Economy and Finance, Oriol Junqueras during a press conference on Friday
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont (L) and Catalan regional vice-President and chief of Economy and Finance, Oriol Junqueras during a press conference on Friday
Three prominent members of Catalonia's government have quit after cracks emerged in the Spanish region's separatist executive just months before a planned independence referendum opposed by Madrid.

Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont told the press on Friday that ministers in charge of interior matters and education, as well as government spokeswoman Neus Munte, had stepped down.

"My deep gratitude for the quality of their work, the faithfulness and commitment of Catalonia," Puigdemont said, without giving a reason for their departure.

Catalonia's executive has recently been embroiled in heated debate over the vote planned for 1 October as Madrid piles pressure on members of the northeastern regional government.

All three members of the government were actively engaged in organising the referendum.

The first major sign of tensions came earlier this month when Jordi Baiget, in charge of business, expressed doubts over whether the referendum could ever take place, given the power of Madrid.

Puigdemont promptly announced Baiget's departure - a decision that was criticised by some of the most fervent supporters of independence.

Madrid is fiercely opposed to a referendum, deeming it illegal and a threat to Spain's unity.

Catalonia hosted a similar referendum in 2014 with 80 percent of respondents voting in favour of independence. The vote, held by Catalonia’s then President Artur Mas, was merely symbolic and non-binding. Mas was banned from holding office for two years for his role in organising the vote.

The Constitutional Court has already quashed a resolution approved by Catalonia's parliament calling for the referendum to take place.

It has also warned Catalonia's elected officials that they will face legal consequences if they take any steps towards holding such a vote.

The upcoming referendum planned will be binding, according to Catalonia's executive, which has said it will declare independence within 48 hours if the region's voters opt to separate from Spain.