REUTERS A pro-independence protestor stands surrounded by red smoke coming from a firemen protest in front of Catalonia’s regional parliament as lawmakers voted inside, in Barcelona, January 16, 2014. Local lawmakers in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia voted to seek a referendum on breaking away from Spain on Thursday, setting themselves up for a battle with an implacably opposed central government in Madrid. The Catalan Parliament in Barcelona voted 87 to 43, with 3 abstentions, to send a petition to the national parliament seeking the power to call a popular vote on the region’s future. The independence movement in Catalonia, which has its own language and represents a fifth of Spain’s national economy, is a direct challenge to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has pledged to block a referendum on constitutional grounds.
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