Venezuela’s opposition stepped up its dispute with the socialist government on Wednesday with mass street protests, calls for a general strike on Friday and a fresh march on the presidential palace next week if the administration does not allow a constitutionally-allowed referendum against President Nicolás Maduro to proceed. “Either the government restores the constitution, or all Venezuelans will go to the palace,” opposition leader Henrique Caprilles told hundreds of thousands of supporters at a rally in central Caracas. The government-dominated National Electoral Council last week suspended the referendum because of alleged signature fraud, ending the opposition’s best hope of peacefully resolving Venezuela’s political and economic crisis and enraging government opponents. In Caracas, shops closed and security troops blocked roads as protesters made their way through the capital, waving banners that read: “Down with the dictatorship, the narcostate”. The largely peaceful protests were repeated throughout the country, although social media reported violent clashes in western cities.