A high-profile opposition leader is calling for protests while President Nicolas Maduro is abroad seeking help for the financially struggling country.

Tensions have mounted in recent days as the South American country's government deployed troops and implemented a rationing system to control lines for groceries.

Henrique Capriles, who nearly defeated Maduro in the 2013 presidential election, said Monday that the country was in a state of emergency, and it was time for public demonstrations.

Caprilies did not support the protests called by more radical opposition leaders last spring.

Maduro has been out of the country for more than a week, visiting China and members of the oil cartel OPEC to push for a cut in output. Oil prices have fallen by more than half since June, battering Venezuela's economy.