Political rivals call for mass rallies in Venezuela

Political tensions soared in Venezuela Wednesday as Nicolas Maduro's government and the rival who refuses to recognize his win as president called massive street rallies for May 1.

"On May 1, we want the whole working class out on the street to show the fascist bourgeoisie just where it is, and what it is willing to do to defend this independent, sovereign and socialist fatherland," Maduro said in a combative speech on official VTV television.

Just moments earlier, opposition leader Henrique Capriles took to Twitter to summon his supporters to a "mobilization in all the states to reject the government's" stand on wage hikes.

It was a full reversal for Capriles who, after rejecting the official outcome of the April 14 presidential elections, had told his supporters to bang pots in their homes as a protest but stay off streets after post-vote violence left nine dead and 78 injured.

After the vote, he refused to accept socialist Maduro's narrow win by 1.8 percent as reported by the National Electoral Board, which is staffed by pro-government employees. The center-left governor has yet to concede defeat.

Maduro and Capriles are now sounding off about alternative wage hike ideas, with the latter arguing that after a government devaluation, a planned increase would do little to improve workers' lost purchasing power as inflation continues to soar.

Earlier Wednesday, the United States voiced hope for a "productive" relationship with Venezuela as it welcomed the appointment of a new envoy to Washington by the successor of leftist leader Hugo Chavez.

Maduro on Tuesday named ruling lawmaker Calixto Ortega as the charge d'affaires at the country's embassy in the US capital after Washington clarified that it was not seeking sanctions over Venezuela's disputed election.