The leader of Venezuela's opposition was hit in the face with a pipe as he attempted to make his way into a government building. Congressman Julio Borges was attacked by men he identified as government supporters. They left him with blood streaming down from his nose and mouth.

Borges had been attempting to enter the headquarters of the country's electoral body in Caracas with other opposition figures. Security was heavy, with lines of police looking on. Borges accused police of pushing him toward gangs loyal to President Nicolas Maduro.

Demonstrations were held in Caracas to demand a recall referendum against Maduro. Hundreds of opposition university students marched through the streets chanting anti-government slogans. Police blocked their way and clashes broke out. Students covered their faces with Venezuelan flags and threw bottles, stones and petrol bombs while police lobbed tear gas and fired rubber bullets.

Maduro condemned the incident during a televised address. "I disavow violence in all of its forms; today, tomorrow and always," he said. "I condemn today's violence in Caracas, which was a product of right-wing provocations. I call on the people to never fall for those provocations again."

Venezuela protests
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters as he arrives for an event in Caracas Miraflores Palace/Reuters

Tension is rising in Venezuela as a severe economic crisis fuels protests over chronic shortages of food and basic supplies. Venezuela's opposition, riding the wave of public ire over the crisis, won control of the National Assembly in a December election but says the election board is under the sway of the government and is dragging its feet on the referendum. Government officials have said there is no time this year to organise the vote. If Maduro lost a referendum in 2016, a new presidential election would be held, but if he departed in 2017, his vice president would take over.