A Venezuelan human rights group says at least four people died in two days of protests after opposition leader Juan Guaido called for a military uprising.
The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict says the dead from the unrest on Tuesday and Wednesday include two people who were shot in the city of La Victoria and two others hit by gunfire in Caracas, the capital.
Human rights activists say at least 230 people were injured and 205 were detained during the clashes between protesters and police.
Pro-Guaido supporters clashed with pro-Maduro forces on Tuesday:
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump said the “brutal repression” of the Venezuelan people by President Nicolas Maduro must end, and it must end soon.
Trump, speaking Thursday at the White House as part of a National Day of Prayer ceremony, said the Venezuelan people are starving and have no water.
“We wish them well,” he said.
He began the event by saying he was sending prayers to the people of Venezuela in their “righteous struggle for freedom.”
Maduro makes show of unity with military
Maduro called for military unity in an appearance with soldiers two days after security forces failed to respond to Guaido’s call for an uprising.
Flanked by commanders, Maduro said on national television Thursday the military must be prepared to combat “traitors” and that the opposition had sought to provoke bloodshed in Caracas since Guaido’s failed bid to take power in January.
Guaido, backed by a small contingent of security forces, called for the military to turn against Maduro on Tuesday. But police dispersed the crowds in clashes that raged for hours.
Thousands of Venezuelans heeded the opposition’s call to fill streets around the nation a day later, but the streets of Caracas were calm on Thursday.
U.S. officials have said the military high command was in discussions with the Supreme Court and representatives of Guaido over Maduro’s exit, which would involve guarantees that members of the armed forces could keep their jobs in a transition government.
Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, said Maduro cannot trust his top military leaders. “Even when they say, ‘I am totally loyal, Mr. President,’ he cannot count on that,” Abrams told broadcaster VPI on Wednesday.
“Almost everyone was involved with that, and so Maduro has to know that the high command is not truly loyal and they want a change.”
Russia describes call with U.S. as ‘quite surreal’
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov characterized a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the ongoing crisis as having elements of the surreal.
Lavrov made his comments Thursday in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, a day after he spoke with Pompeo about protests against Maduro.
“Pompeo phoned, called for us to refuse to support Maduro, called for Cuba and us not to interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela. The whole story sounds quite surreal,” Lavrov said.
“If you count up all that official representatives of the American administration say about Venezuela, then you can pose questions endlessly and to all these questions the answer will be, to put it diplomatically: it’s untrue,” he said.
Pompeo claimed earlier that Maduro was ready to flee the South American country, but that unspecified Russians persuaded him to stay.
Lavrov and Pompeo will resume the as-yet unproductive discussion on Venezuela when they are both in Finland next week for an Arctic Council meeting, according to a senior State Department official. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.