Pro-independence supporters gather in the square outside the Palau Generalitat in Barcelona. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)
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The Madrid government sacked Catalonia's president and dismissed its Parliament Friday, hours after the region declared itself an independent nation, in Spain's gravest political crisis since the return of democracy four decades ago. A new election will be held in Catalonia on Dec. 21, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a televised address on a day of high drama. In a stunning show of defiance to Madrid, the Catalan Parliament had voted in the afternoon to make a unilateral declaration of independence.The crisis unfolded after Catalonia held an independence referendum on Oct. 1 which was declared illegal by Madrid. Although it endorsed independence, it drew only a 43 percent turnout as Catalans who oppose independence largely boycotted it. Catalan resentment at Madrid's perceived interference has been building for years, culminating in an Oct. 1 independence vote deemed illegal by the central government and the courts.
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