Amid Madrid protests, Catalonia bumps up elections in independence push, By Andrés Cala

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Spain's economic powerhouse Catalonia took its first step toward independence -- and threatened to proceed unilaterally if necessary -- in a serious challenge to Madrid's already besieged central government, which is struggling with social turmoil and economic uncertainty. Catalonia's conservative regional leader Artur Mas moved up local elections to Nov. 25 in an effort to secure the political mandate he needs to press the central government to authorize a referendum on independence. But he said that Catalonia could proceed with a referendum even if Madrid didn't authorize one.

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