BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Catalonia's separatist movement is at risk of breaking apart over deepening infighting about the right strategy to culminate the long-held desire for the prosperous region to secede from Spain and become an independent state.
Diehard separatists are pushing for a definitive declaration of independence in the next few days. Moderates still hope to open negotiations with Spanish authorities who insist the disputed referendum on which such a declaration would be based was illegal.
The fault lines widened on Saturday, when the far-left CUP party demanded an unambiguous affirmation of Catalan independence from regional president Carles Puigdemont by the Monday deadline given by Spain's central government.
If Puigdemont does not comply, CUP spokeswoman Nuria Gibert said the party will threaten to withdraw its support for his ruling coalition in Catalonia's regional parliament. Such a move would likely bring down Puigdemont's government and force elections.
"Until there is (a declaration of independence), we don't see any sense in continuing normal parliamentary activity," Gibert said.
CUP had initially given Puigdemont a month to attempt talks with the Spanish government. However, he disappointed the party and the secession movement's grassroots groups when he wavered on making an outright declaration of independence before the regional parliament on Tuesday.
Instead, Puigdemont asked separatist lawmakers to delay the declaration to provide more time for dialogue.
Gibert said Puigdemont's ambiguous position only creates "confusion."
While CUP upped the pressure on Puigdemont, his main ally appealed to supporters of secession to stop bickering and stand behind their leader.
"We must preserve the unity that is necessary to go all the way on this path to a republic," Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras said.
Junqueras delivered his message to 200 members of his Republic Left party at its headquarters in Barcelona. The party forms a governing coalition with Puigdemont's conservatives in Catalonia's parliament.
Junqueras said the best way forward was for secessionists to show the world "who wants to offer dialogue and who rejects it."
Spain's conservative government, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, is also leaning heavily on Puigdemont. The Monday deadline it gave him to clarify his position on independence came with an ultimatum: fall in line by Oct. 19 or face losing some or all of the region's autonomous powers.
"Time for reflection is running out for Carles Puigdemont," Andrea Levy, a member of the Catalan parliament from Rajoy's Popular Party, said Saturday.
Along with being flanked politically, Puigdemont has economic factors to consider. Banks and businesses are discussing relocating their headquarters from Catalonia to other parts of Spain over fears they would be out of the common European Union market if the region breaks away from the country.
The Spanish government has warned that the constitutional crisis in Catalonia is already hurting the economy.
Puigdemont claimed he had the mandate to declare an independent Catalonia after an overwhelming "Yes" vote in a Oct. 1 referendum that Spain's top court had suspended on grounds the vote was likely unconstitutional.
Only 43 percent of eligible voters cast ballots amid a brutal Spanish police crackdown. Parties against secession boycotted the referendum.
Polls show roughly half of Catalonia's 7.5 million residents don't want to leave Spain. Pro-union forces have held large rallies in Barcelona this week.
The European Union supports a united Spain and no foreign country has voice support for Catalonia's separatists.