With Venezuela spiralling into economic freefall and riven by daily protests, its president Nicholas Maduro has provoked further ire for comparing the negative reception his officials are getting abroad to the harassment of Jews in Nazi Germany.

Venezuelans overseas have been accosting visiting state officials and their family members and challenging them on why they spend money on foreign travel when people at home are struggling to get food.

Maduro said during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (17 May) of the officials facing criticism: "We are the new Jews of the 21st century.

"We don't carry the yellow star of David ... we carry red hearts that are filled with desire to fight for human dignity and we are going to defeat them, these 21st-century Nazis", the Guardian reported.

There have been almost daily protests since April as Maduro is accused of becoming a dictator by postponing elections and seeking to rewrite the constitution. The demonstrations have often turned violent and more than 40 people have been killed since they started.

Maduro has described the protesters as "fascists" trying to stage a coup. He told the country in a television broadcast that the demonstrations against him led by opposition forces were like the rallies that Adolf Hitler led in the 1930s.

Venezuela
Opposition supporters gather near a giant Venezuelan national flag and a banner with the names of victims of violence during protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government, at a rally in Maracaibo, on 17 May Reuters

But the Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela, expressed "absolute repudiation" of comparing protests aimed at Venezuelan officials with the persecution endured by Jews in Nazi Germany. They said to do so was part of a "revisionist campaign seeking to nullify the horrors Jews endured".

"That episode in the history of humanity, which cost six million Jews their lives, among them 1.5 million children, is unique and incomparable," it said in a statement, the Associated Press reported.

Maduro's predecessor and former mentor, Hugo Chávez, was accused during his rule of insensitvity about the South American country's 25,000 Jews, especially after he led campaigns against Israel whose government he once accused of genocide against the Palestinians.