Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said regional elections next month in Catalonia will help end “separatist havoc” in the north-eastern region, BBC report.
He addressed a campaign event on his first visit there since imposing direct rule on the region a fortnight ago.
Defending his decision in Barcelona, he said he had “exhausted all roads” after the Catalan government’s unilateral declaration of independence last month.
Several key Catalan leaders are currently being detained over the move.
Some 750,000 people protested in Barcelona on Saturday against the arrests, local police estimated.
The crisis was sparked by a disputed referendum held in Catalonia in October, which had been declared illegal by the Spanish courts.
Catalan officials said the independence campaign won 92% of the vote, from a turnout of 43%. Many of those who were against independence did not cast votes, refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the referendum.
The Catalan government subsequently declared independence. In response, the Spanish government dissolved the region’s parliament, imposed direct rule and called a snap regional election on 21 December.