Venezuelans blocked streets in Caracas Tuesday to protest the president’s call for a new constitution.
Protesters filled streets with pieces of metal and building materials. Others set fire to small mountains of trash.
On Monday, President Nicolas Maduro signed a decree to begin the process of rewriting the constitution. The declaration orders the formation of a constitutional assembly.
In a speech, Maduro said some of the assembly’s 500 members would be elected by “workers” to replace the document.
The Venezuelan constitution was last changed in 1999, under the rule of then-president Hugo Chavez.
“The day has come, brothers,” Maduro said. “Don’t fail me now. Don’t fail Chavez and don’t fail your motherland.” The Associated Press reported his comments.
Fewer than half of the assembly’s members would be elected, Maduro said. He added that political parties would not be involved.
Maduro’s opponents and some observers say the measure is part of a plan to postpone elections set for later this year and presidential elections in 2018.
Opposition leaders urged Venezuelans to ignore Maduro and to continue the protests that have lasted for more than a month.
“We must continue fighting,” said Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly. He said Maduro’s move was “a scam to deceive the Venezuelan people.”
Borges urged Venezuelans to fill Caracas’ streets for two hours on Tuesday. He called for larger demonstrations on Wednesday.
Thousands of Maduro’s supporters marched in Caracas on Monday in a show of support for the president.
The current political tensions started last July, when Venezuela’s Supreme Court announced a ruling to cancel the National Assembly’s legislative powers.
Years of political and economic problems have led to shortages of food, medicine, and other goods.
Demonstrators are asking for the return of democratic ideas, including recognizing the National Assembly’s decisions, releasing political prisoners and permitting humanitarian aid.
I’m John Russell.
VOANews.com reported on this story. John Russell adapted the report for Learning English. Additional information came from the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
decree – n. an official order given by a person with power or by a government
scam – n. a dishonest way to make money by deceiving people
trash – n. something worth very little or nothing at all