Regional acting president Artur Mas speaks at the Parliament in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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Lawmakers in Catalonia officially kicked off a process to secede from Spain by 2017 despite impassioned pleas against independence Monday, in an unprecedented showdown with Madrid's central government.All 72 pro-independence lawmakers – the majority in the regional parliament – voted for a resolution to secede from the rest of the country, drawing huge applause that drowned out opposition MPs holding Spanish flags.Catalonia's independence movement is an increasingly prickly thorn in the side of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who said his government would go to the Constitutional Court to challenge the resolution. The text calls on the regional assembly to start working on legislation within 30 days to create a separate social security system and treasury, with a view to complete independence within 18 months.A 2010 decision by Spain's Constitutional Court to water down a 2006 statute giving the region more powers has added to the growing pressure for secession.
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