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Catalonia crisis threatens Spain’s budget

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Thousands of people protest with Catalonian and Spanish flags against the independence movement and the regional government’s speraratist plans, in Barcelona, Spain, on Oct. 8, 2017. (Nicolas Carvalho Ochoa/dpa/Abaca Press/TNS)

MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faces a resurgent confrontation with Catalonia over the regional government’s choice of leaders, threatening passage of his 2018 budget.

Rajoy’s government left open the option of vetoing a slate of senior officials proposed by regional chief Joaquim Torra Saturday, saying it’s a provocation that he nominated people who are in prison or wanted by Spain after Catalonia’s failed independence bid last year. A veto would extend the Spanish government’s direct rule of Catalonia.

The standoff plays into Rajoy’s plan to salvage the country’s budget in a parliamentary vote this week. Lacking a majority of seats, Rajoy needs backing from the regional Basque party for passage. The party has said it will back the budget only if Rajoy lifts Article 155 of the constitution suspending Catalan self-rule before the vote Thursday.

Rajoy is leaning toward extending the suspension and blocking the regional cabinet from taking office, El Pais reported Sunday. He is counting on backing by the

Socialists and the liberal Ciudadanos party, the newspaper said, citing people it didn’t identify.

Both parties have criticized Torra’s plan and his ties with ousted leader Carles Puigdemont. Torra took office as Catalan president May 14.

Ciudadanos head Albert Rivera said Saturday that Torra plans to lead a “rebel administration.” Socialist chief Pedro Sanchez said his party supports the central government’s pledge to block the nomination of imprisoned officials.

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