Venezuela's Guaido tells Maduro 'pressure just beginning'


President Nicolas Maduro has urged Venezuelans to confront the "crazed minority" supporting US-backed Juan Guaido, by staging massive "anti-imperialist" rallies on the same day that the opposition plans to take to the streets.

"Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights - including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms, and the independence of key institutions - can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights", said former Chile president Bachelet.

Venezuelans, battered by an economic meltdown and a major political crisis, are struggling to access basic goods including food and medicine.

"This situation has been exacerbated by sanctions", Bachelet said.

According to the senior official, the USA will continue taking "appropriate actions" against Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and will impose new visa restrictions for dozens of Venezuelan officials.

The United States and some 50 other countries have recognised Mr Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Over three million people have fled Venezuela's poverty, corruption, crime, and despair.

Despite being under a travel ban since January 30, Guaido secretly left Venezuela for Colombia to help coordinate efforts there on February 23 to force through convoys of USA aid into Venezuela. "They thought the pressure had reached its zenith but it's only just beginning".

The Maduro government's decision not to move against Guaido upon his return to Venezuela on Monday reflects the intense pressure Maduro faces and, possibly, a calculation that restraint is the best tactic for now.

"The moment has arrived and our call, our request, and our complete support for public employees, is to bring about this strike", Guaido told a news conference after meeting with state workers. He had greeted Guaido at Caracas airport on his return to the country on Monday.

Guaido returned to Caracas on Monday after a 10-day Latin America tour aimed at mustering support for his campaign to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuela; oust Maduro; and stage fresh elections.

"We will continue to hold all of the Maduro regime accountable until democracy and libertad (liberty) are fully restored", US Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech.

Just before his arrival, U.S. vice president Mike Pence sent a warning to Maduro to ensure Guaido's safety, and secretary of state Mike Pompeo later hailed his 'safe return'.

The socialist government had kept unusually silent since Guaido landed, with no top officials commenting until Maduro spoke at the ceremony, held at the military barracks where Chavez launched a failed 1992 coup.

"If he wanted to build a democratic Venezuela, he had the opportunity to do so, but he did not", Abrams told reporters.

Guaido said the strikes would be staggered and aim to paralyze the public sector.

As part of his challenge, Guaido is attempting to take control of the state bureaucracy, which he considers to have been "kidnapped" by Maduro through blackmail and persecution.

In 2015, then-President Barack Obama officially designated Venezuela as an "extraordinary threat to the national security" of the United States, with the Trump administration now taking more concrete steps to bring about a regime change in Venezuela.

"Thanks to your teachings and your example we're continuing the permanent fight against those who tried so many times to extinguish your voice", wrote Maduro.

Mr Guaido left Venezuela last month despite a court order banning him from foreign travel and visited Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador.