The situation in Venezuela may rapidly spiral out of control, says United Nations human rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who spoke out in the face of 20 individuals allegedly killed by members of pro-government armed groups during demonstrations this week.
Bachelet cited credible local sources in the assessment, which follows escalating unrest after Juan Guaido, the self-declared Venezuelan president, wrested power from Nicolas Maduro in an open rebellion. Guaido courted the Venezuelan military on Friday in an effort to solidify his authority.
"Come to the side of the Venezuelan people," he implored publicly, aiming to gain the military support he will need to maintain power.
Maduro, meanwhile, made the case for a diplomatic solution to the crisis of leadership.
"We believe that it's only possible through dialogue and diplomacy to find solutions to conflicts," he said, entrenched at the presidential palace. "Not through violence or foreign interventions or coup attempts or war."
Guaido on Wednesday had declared himself acting president, questioning the legitimacy of Maduro's recent reelection before a national backdrop of anti-government protests. Today, he encouraged the military to welcome foreign aid to the economically fragile country.
"Are you or are you not" going to allow aid to the people of Venezuela, Guaido demanded of the military.
In the United States, leaders on both sides of the political aisle continue to weigh in on the turmoil, making a variety of cases for and against the apparent transfer of power.At the center of the aid question is $20 million from the United States for food and other humanitarian relief, as previously promised by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. After the coup, the U.S. quickly recognized Guaido as president and continues to demonstrate support, including a statement from President Trump himself. Maduro cut off diplomatic ties with the U.S. as a result.
"The United States does not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela. Accordingly, the United States does not consider former president Nicolas Maduro to have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations with the United States, declare our diplomats personae non grata or close Venezuelan diplomatic missions in the United States," said a state department spokesperson.
Diplomacy aside, the Venezuelan people remain in turmoil through the upheaval with more than 350 demonstrators reportedly arrested during protests, in addition to the 20 killed.
"I am extremely concerned that the situation in Venezuela may rapidly spiral out of control with catastrophic consequences," Bachelet said