Venezuela street protests again turn deadly as overhaul of constitution begins

Residents blocked streets with trash bags, broken concrete and twisted metal Tuesday to protest the president's bid to rewrite the constitution amid a deepening political crisis.

Elsewhere security forces sprayed tear gas and water cannon at anti-government demonstrators, the latest in more than a month of clashes.

At least 29 people have died in the unrest of the past month and hundreds have been injured.

It was not yet clear if that person was the man who died.

Maduro made his announcement to thousands of supporters who rallied for a May Day demo on Monday.

The opposition accuses the elected leftist president of maneuvering to strengthen his grip on power.

Even so, President Maduro has so far refused to budge on Opposition demands and the political crisis in Venezuela continues to escalate.

Clouds of gray smoke from tear gas canisters filled the air as police with riot shields and trucks advanced along a major avenue in the east of the capital.

Two people were killed overnight when the bus they were traveling in flipped when it tried to avoid a barricade set up by protesters, according to opposition activists who live near the accident site in Carabobo state.

The president was vague in a televised speech Monday evening about how members of the constitutional assembly would be chosen.

The president said Tuesday that he hoped the opposition would join in the process of creating a new constitution.

Private polls indicate that more than 70 per cent of those interviewed do not support Maduro, who was elected in 2013 to succeed his late mentor Hugo Chavez.

Mr Maduro said the constitutional reform body would not include political parties with seats in the opposition-controlled National Assembly, but representatives of social groups traditionally loyal to him.

A presidential election is due to be held next year when Maduro's term ends. "They are mobilized as if this was a war", said opposition leader Henrique Capriles, broadcasting from the scene via the Periscope app favored by protest leaders.On the opposition side, youths donned gas masks and bandanas, throwing Molotov cocktails and using slingshots to fire stones.

"Since they can not win elections, they want to impose the Cuban electoral model to keep themselves in power", he said.

At another point, an armored vehicle set aflame pushed into a crowd of demonstrators. "I thinks it's a good move by the Bolivarian Revolution; they are trying to have a scenario of peace and dialogue, but if it doesn't work out, they are also taking steps in order to bring the revolution further rather than having Venezuela fall into the hands of foreign powers, who look to take advantage of the situation, to bring Venezuela in the sphere of United States influence", August said.

"We view it as a step backwards", said Fitzpatrick.

The opposition blames Maduro for the acute economic crisis.

Assemblywoman and opposition leader Maria Corina Machado told Fox News she celebrated that the administration of Donald Trump has brought to light "the criminal nature of the regime, its links with drug trafficking and dollar laundering".

However, if the process to rewrite the constitution moves ahead, opposition leaders will need to attract sympathetic figures in the assembly, which could prevent them from organizing the almost daily street protests in Caracas of the past few weeks. In 2014, clashes at anti-government protests killed 43 people.

Despite the country's chaos, Maduro retains the military's public backing. The plunge in world oil prices has left the government owing money across the board, from foreign airlines to oil service companies.

Maduro, 54, the former bus driver who narrowly won election to replace Hugo Chavez in 2013, says his foes are seeking a violent coup with the connivance of the United States and encouragement of global media.

  • Leroy Wright