Opposition demonstrators equipped with protective hardhats, gloves and gas masks take cover behind homemade shields as they clash with riot police in Caracas. Image Credit: AFP

CARACAS: Riot police in Venezuela fired tear gas and water cannon to stop antigovernment protesters from marching on a key military installation on Friday during the latest violence in nearly two months of unrest.

The opposition is trying to sway the support of the armed forces, a key pillar of the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who is resisting opposition calls for early elections.

Retired military personnel joined demonstrators who tried to march to the Los Proceres complex, which houses the defence ministry and lies close to a major military base in Caracas.

Masked protesters threw Molotov cocktails at riot police in scenes familiar after nearly two months of unrest.

The public prosecution service on Thursday raised the death toll from eight weeks of unrest to 57. Attorney General Luisa Ortega blamed military police for hundreds of injuries and at least one death.

Protesters brand the socialist president a dictator, blaming him for economic turmoil and food shortages.

Maduro is resisting their calls for early elections, saying the opposition and the United States are plotting a coup against him.

The opposition has called on the military to abandon Maduro, but the high command has retained its public support for him so far.

A crowd of Maduro’s supporters in red shirts started a counter-demonstration on Friday near the presidential palace in central Caracas.

The president has launched steps to reform the constitution in response to the crisis. His opponents say that is a bid to dodge elections and cling to power.

The National Electoral Council said those who wanted to stand for election to a “constituent assembly” to rewrite the constitution were called to sign up next Thursday and Friday.

The opposition urged demonstrators to rally again on Saturday, this time at the offices of the state media regulator.