Venezuela's political opposition warned Tuesday that if the government thwarts the will of the people and uses the Supreme Court to block a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro, the country could enter a "zone of turbulence."
Jesus Torrealba, executive secretary of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), made the remarks a day after Maduro's government asked the Supreme Court to stop MUD's efforts to hold a vote to oust him as president.
Maduro's government argued that the formal request for a referendum should be rejected on the grounds that some of the 1.85 million signatures on petitions demanding the vote were not valid.
The National Elections Council (CNE) rejected some 600,000 of the 1.83 million signatures gathered in the first phase of the referendum process.
MUD, which won control of Venezuela's unicameral National Assembly in December, accuses Maduro of colluding with the National Elections Council to delay the process or block a vote altogether.
The calls for a referendum, and the government's efforts to stop it, are the culmination of a political and economic crisis sweeping Venezuela.
Near-daily protests over food and the ongoing political deadlock have turned violent, with five people dead in the last week, according to local media reports.
On Tuesday alone, two people were killed and 25 injured in protests in the eastern city of Cumana, according to an opposition deputy cited by local media. Dozens of stores were reportedly looted.
Last week, an opposition congressional leader, Julio Borges, was hit in the face with a pipe, and two other opposition politicians were beaten as they tried to enter the CNE.
On Tuesday, Borges asked Maduro's government to prohibit law enforcement officers from using firearms against demonstrators.