Caracas: Venezuelan opposition leaders said on Friday they were banned from leaving Venezuela, adding to outrage over the suspension of their drive for a recall referendum against unpopular socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.
Various opposition figures published a document purportedly from a court in the city of Valencia ordering eight people, including opposition coalition leader Jesus Torrealba and twice-presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, to stay in Venezuela.
"They are wasting their time once again. Wait to hear what we have to say in the next few hours," tweeted Capriles, who has led the campaign for a plebiscite against Maduro.
"It's gratuitous aggression," added Torrealba. "We are the majority, in the street and in congress."
Judicial and government spokesmen did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The purported court document included eight names and gave no reasons for the ban. But it may be related to government allegations the opposition used fraud in an initial signature drive earlier this year to kick-start the referendum process.
That was the reason Venezuela's electoral authority on Thursday suspended the next phase scheduled for next week - to collect around 4 million signatures to trigger the plebiscite - citing court orders.
Furious opposition supporters accused the government of dictatorial tactics.
Students planned a protest march in Caracas, and the Democratic Unity coalition said it would soon announce measures to keep pressing for Maduro's departure.
Some of the harder-line opposition figures called for civil disobedience. "This dictatorship will not grant us anything, we have to achieve change in peace, democracy and - above all - in the street," jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez's Popular Will party said.
In 2014 opposition protests led to 43 deaths, including security force members and both government and opposition supporters. Venezuelans are now worried about a fresh bout of unrest in the OPEC nation of about 30 million people.
They are already suffering from an economic crisis that has families skipping meals amid food shortages and triple-digit inflation.
Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader elected three years ago to replace late leader Hugo Chavez, has seen his popularity tumble in hand with the recession.
He was traveling to the Middle East on Friday to drum up support for measures to raise oil prices.
His aides said the opposition had brought their troubles on themselves by delaying their request for a referendum and then committing fraud such as adding dead people's names to the initial signature drive.
"We hope justice will be served and that those responsible for this swindle will be detained," said Diosdado Cabello, the ruling Socialist Party's second-in-command said on Thursday.