Crackdown in Venezuela Kills at Least 20 Protesters, U.N. Says

Crackdown in Venezuela Kills at Least 20 Protesters, U.N. Says

GENEVA — Venezuelan security forces and pro-government armed groups killed at least 20 people and wounded many more during protests this week, the United Nations human rights office said on Friday, citing sources in the country. Local groups reported a higher death toll.

The United Nations human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, condemned the killings by forces loyal to the embattled president, Nicolás Maduro, who has come under mounting domestic and international pressure to resign as his country sinks deeper into a political and economic crisis.

Ms. Bachelet, who served two terms as president of Chile, said she was “extremely concerned that the situation in Venezuela may rapidly spiral out of control with catastrophic consequences.”

In the capital, Caracas, and in other cities, large crowds of demonstrators clashed with the police and armed groups this week — confrontations punctuated by gunfire — amid deepening desperation about food shortages and an economic collapse that has driven three million Venezuelans abroad.

“They could imprison me today,” he said. “We can’t rule anything out.”

Venezuelan security forces have cracked down on the opposition, raiding homes and making hundreds of arrests, according to the United Nations human rights office, based in Geneva, which reported 320 arrests on Wednesday alone.

“This is, at heart, a crisis of governance, and it is the responsibility of the country’s leaders to put an end to this disastrous situation,” Ms. Bachelet said, urging Venezuela’s political leaders to meet to defuse the crisis.

“What more is needed before the political leadership put their people’s well-being ahead of their own interests?” she asked.

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