The Spanish government will sack Catalonia's secessionist leadership and force the region into a new election, it decided on Saturday, unprecedented steps it said were needed to prevent the region breaking away.
The plan, which still requires the approval of the upper house Senate, seeks to resolve Spain's worst political crisis in four decades but risks an angry reaction from independence supporters, who plan street protests later in the day.
Outlining the cabinet's decision, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy, was already in worrying economic shape as a result of the regional government's push for independence.
"We will ask the Senate, with the aim of protecting the general interest of the nation, to authorize the government ... to sack the Catalan president and his government," Rajoy told a news conference.
Spain's upper house of parliament is scheduled to vote on the plan next Friday.
It is the first time since Spain's return to democracy in the late 1970s that
Direct rule will include full control of the region's police, finances and public media. The powers of the regional parliament will also be curbed. Rajoy said his intention was to not use those special powers for more than six months and he would call a regional election as soon as the situation was back to "normal."
"Our objective is to restore the law and a normal cohabitation among citizens, which has deteriorated a lot, continue with the economic recovery, which is under threat today in Catalonia, and celebrate elections in a situation of normality," Rajoy said.
The measures must now be approved by Spain's upper house, the Senate, where a vote is scheduled for Oct. 27.