At least 10 people killed in Venezuela protests after controversial vote

The Department of Foreign Affairs say Irish citizens should avoid non-essential travel

At least 10 people killed in Venezuela protests after controversial vote

Venezuelan Bolivarian National police move away from the flames after an explosion at Altamira square during clashes against anti-government demonstrators in Caracas, Venezuela | Image: Ariana Cubillos/AP/Press Association Images

Updated: 11.40

Protests in Venezuela during a controversial election have left at least 10 people dead, including two teenagers.

Britain and the US have called the election a "sham" as the violence continues.

Many people in the South American country say it is heading for dictatorship and boycotted Sunday's vote for an assembly that would give President Nicolas Maduro virtually unlimited powers.

Opponents reacted with anger and mockery after the National Electoral Council said more than eight million people had voted - a 41.53% turnout.

Mr Maduro, however, hailed the result as the "biggest ever vote for the revolution".

An election candidate and an opposition leader were among those killed and a number of police officers were injured after an explosion in the capital Caracas.

Venezuelan soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas at people blocking a highway and the national guard, equipped with shotguns, patrolled the main roads.

Commenting on the situation, the Department Foreign Affairs say: "Ireland's view is that the establishment of a clear electoral calendar, the reopening of dialogue, and the full restoration of the country’s democratic institutions will be critical to achieving a settlement to the crisis.

"We urge the government and opposition to seek peaceful and democratic solutions through dialogue".

It says Irish citizens should avoid non-essential travel to Venezuela. There is no Irish embassy in Venezuela and no honorary consulate.

Irish people there who may need assistance are asked to contact the Irish embassy in Mexico.

Protests have become an everyday occurrence in Venezuela, which has seen living standard tumble in recent years despite its massive oil supplies.

President Maduro faced no opposition in the elections and people fear he will use the new 545-member assembly to rewrite the constitution and tighten his grip on power.

If the vote goes his way, he will effectively govern a one-party state.

Mr Maduro is widely blamed for overseeing the unravelling of the country's economy, but he has promised the assembly will being peace.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said on Twitter the election was a "step toward dictatorship" and that the US would not accept an illegitimate government.

"The Venezuelan people & democracy will prevail," she tweeted.

The US had also said it is considering oil-related sanctions against Venezuela, with measures announced "as early as Monday", according to officials.

Venezuela is the third-largest exporter of oil to the US, behind Canada and Saudi Arabia.