Venezuelan lawmaker Julio Borges was bloodied while trying to enter a heavily secured government building in Caracas. He accused pro-government gangs of attacking him with pipes, stones, and explosives.
Borges was in a small group of opposition lawmakers, heading into the offices of the national electoral commission on Thursday.
He said the police allowed ten of them to pass the perimeter, but then pushed them towards a gang of "colectivos" – a group loyal to the socialist government.
"The colectivos acted with total impunity - they had pipes, motorbike helmets, rocks, explosive artifacts, and they used them against us," Borges said.
Three parliament members were injured, including Borges, who is the leader of the opposition bloc. Borges addressed journalists with a bloodied face and blood stains on his shirt.
The government opponents were visiting the building to press the electoral officials on the referendum against President Nicolas Maduro. The opposition claims authorities are dragging their feet in an already complicated procedure to oust the president.
Borges said the electoral officials refused to meet on Thursday.
'We are hungry'
President Maduro condemned the incident in a televised address.
"I disavow violence in all of its forms; today, tomorrow and always," he said. "I condemn today's violence in downtown Caracas, which was a product of right-wing provocations. I call on the people to never fall for those provocations again."
Maduro is facing mounting pressure amid shortages of food, water, medicine, and electricity.
On Thursday, protesters in Caracas clashed with security forces, chanting "We are hungry," as the police fired tear gas.
Hundreds of students also took to the streets, with some of them throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the police.
Dozens of people looted bakeries and food trucks in Caracas on Thursday.
The opposition is racing to hold the anti-Maduro referendum before the end of the year. A vote in 2016 would automatically prompt new elections, but a later vote would simply see Maduro succeeded by his vice president.
dj/bw (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)