At least four people died and 300 were injured when opposition protesters clashed with forces loyal to President Nicolás Maduro over the weekend, as Venezuela edged toward civil war.
Violence flared at the Colombian border Saturday when opposition leader Juan Guaidó tried to accompany a convoy of humanitarian aid into Venezuela. He was turned back by Maduro’s troops, prompting clashes.
Guaidó, who will meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and regional leaders at a meeting in the Colombian capital Bogota on Monday, later warned that it is necessary to have “all options open to achieve the liberation of this country.”
Pence will announce “concrete steps” and “clear actions” at the summit, a senior U.S. official told reporters Sunday, adding, “What happened yesterday is not going to deter us from getting humanitarian aid into Venezuela.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a vocal critic of the regime, said Maduro’s actions had “opened the door to various potential multilateral actions not on the table just 24 hours ago.”
In a flurry of Sunday tweets, Rubio compared Maduro to former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi — suggesting not only a military intervention but also that Maduro could be hunted and killed.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was more circumspect, telling CNN that the U.S. was determined to see that Cuba and Russia “no longer hold sway” in Venezuela, and that he was “confident” Maduro’s “days are numbered.”
Later on Twitter, Pompeo labeled Maduro a “sick tyrant”:
Guaidó had hoped the aid convoy would persuade members of the military to switch sides. Some 160 soldiers did defect; however, the vast majority remained loyal to Maduro and refused to let the aid convoy pass.
Those soldiers who did abandon their posts say they are now worried about the safety of their families.
More violence was reported at several border-crossing points Saturday, with riot police firing tear gas at the protestors. Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at the troops.
The worst reported violence happened along the Brazilian border, where armed groups of Maduro loyalists — known as “colectivos” — opened fire on protestors in the town of Santa Elena de Uairén, killing at least four people, according to the campaign group Foro Penal.
Cover image: Members of the Venezuelan National Guard clash with protesters of the Venezuelan opposition on the Simon Bolivar international bridge in San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela, on the border with Colombia, on February 24, 2019.(FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)