Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro announced on May 1 the creation of a new popular assembly with the ability to re-write the constitution. The move has been rejected by the opposition which has called on its supporters to rebel.
Maduro, 54, triggered an article of the constitution that creates a super-body known as a "constituent assembly." He said he would ask the people to rewrite the country's governing document. It is unclear how this popular assembly would be put together.
The citizen assembly can dissolve public powers and call general elections, echoing a previous assembly created by his predecessor Hugo Chavez in 1999 soon after he won office in the South American OPEC nation.
Opponents fear Maduro would stuff the assembly with supporters and manipulate the elected seats by giving extra weight to pro-government workers and unions.
"I don't want a civil war," Maduro told a May Day rally of supporters in downtown Caracas. Elsewhere across the city, security forces fired tear gas at youths hurling stones and petrol bombs after opposition marchers were blocked.
The decree was to "block the fascist coup" threatening the country, he told supporters.
TRT World's Juan Carlos Lamas reports from Caracas.
Opposition show of force
The opposition has been demanding general elections to try and end the socialists' 18-year rule.
They said the creation of the popular assembly was another attempt to sideline the current opposition-led National Assembly and potentially avoid elections amid a bruising recession and protests that have led to 29 deaths in the last month.
A grave-faced National Assembly President Julio Borges on Monday evening called on Venezuelans to rebel, potentially portending bigger protests.
"This is a scam to deceive the Venezuelan people with a mechanism that is nothing more than a coup," Borges said, urging Venezuelans to block streets early on Tuesday and hold another march on Wednesday. Opposition supporters on Monday night were also banging empty pots and pans from their windows in a traditional Latin American form of protest.
The move is likely to sharpen international concerns over Venezuela's adherence to democracy and fears it is slipping over a precipice to civil conflict.
The president has bristled at what he calls international interference in his country's affairs.
Venezuela last week said it was quitting the Organization of American States after it and other international bodies expressed concern about the country's adherence to democracy.