Human rights groups and Venezuela's opposition are criticizing the government's new authorization for riot police to use firearms to control protests.

The new rules were slipped into a resolution this week providing security forces with guidelines on the use of force.

Venezuela's constitution bans the use of firearms and toxic substances to control demonstrations, although in practice such means have long been used, including during last year's deadly street battles between police and anti-government demonstrators.

The country's main opposition group says it will denounce the measure to the United Nations. It calls the rules an attempt by President Nicolas Maduro to scare Venezuelans from protesting a deepening economic crisis.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said Friday the opposition is trying to smear the government and take the resolution out of context.