The political crisis in Venezuela is again being acted out on the capital’s streets with opposition supporters blocking main highways into Caracas.
Monday’s announcement by President Nicolas Maduro to set up a new assembly, circumventing the opposition- controlled parliament has outraged his critics.
With the new body having the power to re-write the constitution, neighbours Brazil, Bolivia and Chile as well as MPs have denounced the move, with some calling it a coup.
Leading presidential opponent Henrique Capriles has accused Maduro of trying to prevent “free and democratic” elections.
“Why don’t we have a referendum and ask one little simple question: Are you in favour of Mr. Nicolas Maduro’s government remaining or do you want to hold elections for the Venezuelan people to have a new government? Those who violate the constitution today are those who say they are the fathers of the constitution. What they are trying to do is kill the constitution.”
Maduro’s shock announcement follows attempts by the divisive Venezuelan leader to woo his core supporters with promises of salary rises.
But critics say he is increasingly dictatorial and plans to staff the new assembly with allies, avoiding elections he would likely lose.
Oil-rich Venezuela is in the middle of a crippling recession and raging inflation which many have blamed on the government. Almost daily protests during the last month have become more violent leaving at least 29 people dead.