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Monday November 20th, 2017 6:09PM

The Latest: First member of Catalonia govt cabinet resigns

By The Associated Press
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on Catalonia's bid for independence from Spain (all times local):

10:45 p.m.

Catalonia's regional chief for business says he is resigning because efforts to find a negotiated solution to the secession-minded region's conflict with Spain have failed.

Santi Vila has been the most vocal opponent within the Catalan cabinet of making a full declaration of independence from Spain. His resignation late Thursday made him the first member of regional President Carles Puigdemont's cabinet to resign amid the tense standoff with central authorities.

Announcing his departure in a tweet, Vila said: "My efforts for dialogue have failed again. I hope that I have been useful until the last minute for President Puigdemont and for the Catalan people."

The resignation came amid frantic negotiations in the Catalan parliament over the region's next steps.

When regional lawmakers reconvene on Friday, Puigdemont's coalition could propose an explicit independence declaration in response to Spain's plans to take over running the prosperous region.

___

9:30 p.m.

Catalonia's parliament has adjourned for the day and is planning to reconvene on Friday morning for a debate on responding to the Spanish government's plans to strip away regional powers.

Spain's Senate also is set to meet on Friday. It is expected to approve a request by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to trigger constitutional powers allowing the central government to take control of much of the prosperous region's affairs.

Rajoy's government has said it needs the authority to run Catalonia to stop regional leaders from taking any more steps to break away from Spain.

Catalan lawmakers held an acrimonious debate after regional President Carles Puigdemont announced he had ruled out calling an early election as a way of potentially defusing the crisis.

The parliamentary session was suspended for the night and was scheduled to restart at noon (1000 GMT) Friday.

___

9:10 p.m.

A Spain Senate commission has approved the government's proposal for taking over the running of the country's powerful Catalonia region to stop its push for independence.

The proposals drawn up by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government include removing the Catalan government's regional leaders from office and curtailing the authority of the region's parliament.

The commission accepted an amendment from the opposition Socialists to apply the measures gradually and proportionately, depending on developments in Catalonia.

The full Senate chamber is set to debate and approve the proposals with further possible amendments on Friday. Rajoy's conservative Popular Party has an absolute majority in the chamber.

It will then be up to his government to decide which measures to implement and when.

___

8:35 p.m.

A lawmaker who leads Spain's ruling Popular Party in Catalonia's parliament has warned the region's pro-secession officials they will be criminally prosecuted if they proceed with plans to declare independence.

Xavier Albiol told Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other separatists during a parliamentary session on Thursday: "If you think that history will judge you, you are wrong. A court of justice will judge you."

Regional lawmakers who support breaking away from Spain are negotiating the details of making a formal independence declaration on Friday. The declaration could expose them to charges of sedition or rebellion by Spanish courts.

Albiol said: "History will show that you carried out a coup. Surely tomorrow you will try to culminate your coup."

___

7:20 p.m.

The leader of the opposition Socialists in the Catalan parliament is urging Catalonia's separatist leader to take one last chance to open a dialogue with Spain's central government to prevent a takeover by Spanish authorities.

Miquel Iceta told Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in the regional parliament on Thursday: "If you go to the Spanish Senate, I will go with you and be at your side."

Puigdemont turned down an invitation from the Spanish Senate to appear in person during a debate on the intervention by Spanish national authorities to stop his government's secessionist push.

Iceta said: ""I am sorry, but this legislature has been an utter disaster. We have a divided people, a weakened economy, and a tarnished image internationally."

6:20 p.m.

Spain's deputy prime minister says the Spanish government has an obligation" to rescue Catalonia" and bring it back in line with the law.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria spoke Thursday before a Spain Senate commission studying the government's petition to take direct control of Catalonia.

Saenz de Santamaria says the government is seeking the exceptional constitutional authority to provide democracy for all Catalans, whether or not the support the regional government's push to break away from Spain.

She said regional President Carles Puigdemont and his separatist government had fueled confusion over whether they would press ahead with independence or back down. She says the behavior only could be described as "non-government."

Saenz de Santamaria also criticized Puigdemont for refusing to appear before the Senate to make his argument.

___

5:10 p.m.

The leader of Spain's secession-minded Catalonia region says he has decided against calling a parliamentary election that might have defused tension with the Spanish government.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said Thursday he considered calling a snap election, but was choosing not to because he didn't receive enough guarantees that the government's "abusive" moves to take control of Catalonia would be suspended.

In a hastily called address from his palace in Barcelona, the separatist leader said the regional parliament now will decide how to respond to the Spanish authorities' takeover plan.

The unprecedented measures are set to be approved on Friday in Madrid and will lead to the first direct intervention by central authorities in the affairs of one of the country's 17 autonomous regions.

Spain's conservative government had offered to halt the extraordinary measures if a new election was to be called in Catalonia, but recently backtracked on that.

___

4:40 p.m.

The government of Catalonia says regional president Carles Puigdemont will now make an address from his palace in Barcelona after hastily calling off announcements earlier in the day.

Local media reported earlier in the day that Puigdemont was expected to use the address to call a snap election, a move that would defuse for the time being a monthlong standoff with Spanish authorities but that could open wounds among Catalan separatists.

The last-minute changes came amid ongoing last-minute negotiations within the ruling Catalan coalition and between politicians in Barcelona and Madrid in order to avoid a suspension of Catalonia's regional powers.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has sought to activate constitutional powers that will allow the government to take over control of much of the autonomous region's affairs. The Spanish Senate is scheduled to approve the plan to trigger Article 155 of the Constitution on Friday.

___

3:30 p.m.

A spokesman for a separatist party that is part of the ruling coalition in Catalonia says the coalition is at risk of breaking apart if regional president Carles Puigdemont calls a snap election.

The spokesman for the Catalan Republic Left party, or ERC, said the party would abandon Puigdemont's government.

Puigdemont's center-right PDeCAt party and ERC have governed in a minority coalition with the support in parliament of the far-left, anti-establishment CUP party.

Their unity, and the political future in Catalonia, is at stake amid last-minute negotiations on what's next in the regional government's push to secede from Spain.

The ERC party spokesman requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of ongoing last-minute negotiations.

Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras told The Associated Press on Wednesday that a regional election would go against the mandate given by voters in a disputed referendum.

___

2:40 p.m.

Catalonia's government has called off an official televised address by regional leader Carles Puigdemont in Barcelona.

Local media had reported that Puigdemont was expected to use the address to call a snap election.

The address, scheduled for 1.30 p.m. (1130GMT) Thursday, was delayed for one hour and finally cancelled.

Puigdemont's office offered no explanation for the cancellation. Puigdemont is still scheduled to address the regional parliament in a plenary session later on Thursday.

The parliament meeting in Barcelona is for Catalan lawmakers to debate how to respond to plans by the national government to direct control of the region. The Spanish Senate is holding a separate session in Madrid to debate the extraordinary measures to halt the separatists' push for independence.

___

2:15 p.m.

The Spanish government says it has no comment to make until after Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont speaks.

The government says it will speak in the Senate later Thursday, where a commission is studying government proposals to take over Catalan affairs so as to halt the region's push for independence.

Ruling Popular Party Sen. Javier Arenas said that Puigdemont calling regional elections, as is speculated, would not be enough to stop the Senate process as legality in the region must also be restored.

The leading opposition Socialist party, meanwhile, says the government must stop the intervention process if Catalonia calls elections within a constitutional framework.

___

1:30 p.m.

Thousands of protesters, mainly university and high school students, are gathering in central Barcelona to protest plans by the Spanish government to assume control of some of the Catalonia region's affairs.

More than 4,000 protesters, many draped in the red and yellow Catalan flag, have gathered ahead of a scheduled demonstration outside the university building, blocking several nearby streets.

The atmosphere is festive, with music blaring from loudspeakers and students making last-minute banners with cardboard.

Not all the demonstrators are in favor of independence. Seventeen-year-old Martina Gallego says she doesn't want Catalonia to secede from Spain, but objects strongly to how the Spanish government is treating the region.

___

12:50 p.m.

Catalonia's president will make a televised address at 1:30 p.m. (1130 GMT; 7:30 a.m. EDT) amid increasing reports that he's chosen to call a snap regional election instead of definitively declaring independence, in order to defuse Spain's deepest political crisis in decades.

Catalonia's main newspaper La Vanguardia, quoting unnamed government sources, is reporting that Carles Puigdemont is going to dissolve the regional parliament and call a snap election by the end of the year.

Spain's central government is planning to take control of the region's powers under the country's constitution in an attempt to derail Catalonia's independence bid.

Spain's conservative government had offered to halt the extraordinary measures if a new election was to be called in Catalonia, but recently backtracked on that. The Spanish Senate is scheduled to approve the plan for the central government to take over Catalonia's powers on Friday.

___

11:40 a.m.

Catalonia's regional leader Carles Puigdemont has appealed to Spain's national Senate, asking senators to reject extraordinary measures proposed by the Spanish government to take direct control of the region.

In the 8-page document submitted to the Senate on Thursday, Puigdemont says Madrid is trying to solve the crisis by "trying to create an even more extraordinary serious situation by taking away the political autonomy of Catalonia."

The Senate is expected to approve on Friday the Catalan takeover measure, which includes sacking the region's elected government and curtailing powers of the regional parliament, as well as control over regional police, finances and public media.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says he wants to use the extraordinary powers to replace lawmakers in the regional parliament by calling early elections as soon as normalcy is regained in the region.

___

10:15 a.m.

It's a key day in the standoff between Spain and the Catalonia region.

The Catalan president could defuse Spain's deepest political crisis in decades by calling a snap regional election. Or he could crystalize separatist threats by formalizing an independence declaration, something that could land him in jail.

Carles Puigdemont is expected to announce his decision at a session in the regional parliament in Barcelona that starts Thursday and could stretch into Friday.

Regardless of his choice, the Catalan cabinet is set to become the first regional government in Spain to be removed in four decades of democracy. On Friday, the Senate in Madrid is expected to authorize the central government to directly rule the splintering region of 7.5 million.

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