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Catalonia goes own way from its leader

BARCELONA, Spain — Artur Mas, the president of Catalonia, was hoping to lead Spain’s economically most powerful region toward secession from the rest of the country.

But after an early regional election Sunday that eroded support for his governing party, Mas will have to focus instead on the far less lofty goal of staying in office, possibly by forming an awkward alliance with another separatist party.

Indeed, the decision to call a vote two years ahead of schedule backfired for Mas, who was apparently punished by voters for trying to shift the debate away from his unpopular austerity measures and other pressing economic issues.

By turning the vote into a plebiscite on independence, Mas helped polarize Catalonia’s 7.5 million citizens, with more radical and alternative parties making the clearest gains. Many politicians in Madrid as well as Barcelona welcomed Mas’ unexpected fall from grace. Over the past two months, Mas had shot to the forefront of Spanish politics, as the standard bearer for Catalan sovereignty — and a prime domestic challenge for Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

Overall, separatist parties won 74 of the 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament on Sunday. Of that total, however, Mas and his Convergencia i Unio party collected only 50 seats, down from the 62 seats the party won two years ago.

Agreeing to fiscal red lines could make it harder for Mas to meet budget deficit targets set by Madrid, as well as reduce a Catalan debt pile that is by far the largest in the country — about 42 billion euros, or $54.4 billion, out of a total of 140 billion euros for Spain’s 17 regions.

—Raphael Minder, The New York Times

German inferno kills 14 at site employing disabled

BERLIN — A fire broke out Monday in a workshop that employed dozens of mentally and physically disabled people in southwestern Germany, killing 14 and seriously injuring seven others, officials said.

The police were not able to immediately confirm a report by the local media that an explosion in a storeroom on the top floor of the facility in Titisee-Neustadt in the Black Forest region had caused the fire. There was also no information on whether chemicals kept in the storage area had been involved.

The workshop was run by the Caritas charity organization and employed about 120 people with various disabilities in jobs that include metalworking

Some 300 firefighters from across the region and two rescue helicopters were called to the site.

—Melissa Eddy, The New York Times