A week of protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has left 35 people dead and 850 detained, non-governmental organisations said on Monday.
One NGO, Foro Penal, said 850 people, among them 77 minors, have been arrested.
At the same time, Pope Francis said he was terrified the political crisis enveloping the country would descend into a “bloodbath”.
He made the comment while speaking to journalists aboard a plane on his return trip from Panama, he was quoted as saying, “the problem of violence terrifies me”.
Guaido Speaks Up
Venezuela’s opposition leader people are living in a “dictatorship”, and renewed his calls for fresh elections.
Juan Guaidó declared himself interim leader last week and has been recognized by more than 20 countries, including the US.
The UN says that 40 people are believed to have been killed in recent unrest. Protests have been growing since Mr Maduro began a second term as president this month.
Mr Guaidó said the Venezuelan constitution allowed him, as the head of the National Assembly, to take power when the president was considered to be illegitimate.
He told CNN that members of the country’s armed forces could be granted amnesty as part of a transition toward democracy.
In his interview with CNN, Guaido said he was hoping to win the support of the country’s powerful armed forces to convince Maduro to step down.
However, he warned that he would not start a “false dialogue” with a regime that jails and tortures political opponents, something Maduro’s regime has been consistently accused of.
New US Sanctions
The US has imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA.
Venezuela is heavily reliant on the US for its oil revenue – sending 41% of its oil exports there – while it remains in the top four crude oil suppliers to the US.
Speaking on NBC Television in the US last evening, one American foreign policy expert said while he did not support Maduro’s continuation in office, economic sanctions would hurt the Venezuelan poor and vulnerable, and not Maduro and his inner circle.