Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy has said he wants the country's senate to give him direct power to dissolve the regional Catalan government and call an election as soon as possible.
Mr Rajoy (pictured below) said after a cabinet meeting that the central government needs to take the unprecedented step of assuming control of Catalonia to "restore order" in the face of a secession effort backed by the regional government.
He is proposing that the powers of Catalan officials be taken over by central government ministers.
Mr Rajoy's government is activating a previously untapped constitutional article to take control of Catalonia.
The move is aimed at blocking the independence movement that has gained pace since a disputed October 1 referendum on separating Catalonia from Spain.