Caracas (AFP) – Demonstrators blocked roads in Venezuela Tuesday in renewed protests against President Nicolas Maduro after he announced plans to overhaul the constitution in a bid to quell a deadly political crisis.
Far from defusing the crisis, Maduro’s announcement on Monday further incensed the center right opposition after a month of protests that have left 28 people dead.
The opposition is demanding early elections to replace the socialist president.
Maduro instead said he was invoking his power to create a 500-member constituent assembly representing a “working class base” and local councils to rewrite the constitution — cutting out the opposition-controlled Congress.
He said the decree was needed to “block the fascist coup” which he said is threatening the country. Maduro regularly portrays Venezuela as the victim of a US-led capitalist conspiracy.
The opposition rejected the idea because the body drafting the new charter would not be the result of a popular election but rather be composed of workers and farmers from Maduro’s traditional support base.
Angry opponents who blame the president for the country’s economic crisis hit the streets early on Monday in renewed rallies.
AFP reporters saw streets blocked with makeshift barricades of rubbish and pulled-down trees as people banged pots and blew horns.
“This constituent assembly that Maduro has announced is a manipulation to escape elections,” said student Raul Hernandez, 22, one of about 100 people blocking a major avenue in eastern Caracas.
Maduro’s announcement to a crowd of supporters on May Day came as security forces sprayed tear gas and water cannon at anti-government demonstrators elsewhere in the capital.
<figure><figcaption>President Nicolas Maduro's plan for a new constitution sparks fresh protests in crisis-torn Venezuela <span>Copyright AFP RONALDO SCHEMIDT</span> </figcaption></figure>