After Jan. 23 bloodshed, situation in Venezuela grows increasingly hostile

Maduro's administration threatens U.S.-recognized interim president

CARACAS – Human rights activists in Venezuela say they are overwhelmed with work as Venezuelan law enforcement represses the growing dissent against Nicolas Maduro, who promised on Tuesday that he will be arming and training more civilians to join the socialist militias.

At least 40 people were killed and 976 were detained during protests, according to Penal Forum, a non-governmental organization in Venezuela. Zuleima Sisos, a Venezuelan attorney, told Penal Forum activists, there were 28 children in court during a hearing, who had not been able to shower since they were arrested.

Sisos was in tears when she said some of the injured "smelled like blood" and some fainted while waiting. She said the kids were pleading for their freedom and some were crying and begging to see their mothers. 

"They were smelly ... this situation is unprecedented," Sisos said. "This is a very difficult moment for me."

Luisa Ortega Diaz, Venezuela's chief prosecutor under Guaido's administration, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night that she was starting an investigation against those responsible for the repression against protesters and the human rights violations. 



Venezuela’s Supreme Court justices, who are socialist loyalists, prohibited Juan Guaido, the U.S.-recognized interim president of Venezuela, from leaving the country, after the chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab launched an investigation against him. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened "serious consequences" for anyone hurting Guaido.

Maduro's administration couldn't access gold or cash held in banks in the United States and England, and the Wall Street Journal reported a Russian supplier was among the dozen of oil traders suspending contracts with Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA, after the U.S. issued new sanctions. 

Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly approved Guaido's diplomatic appointees, including Carlos Vecchio who met with Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday in the White House.



Sen. Marco Rubio met with SouthCom Commander Admiral Craig Faller. 

"Maduro attempt to expand pro-regime paramilitary gangs is another sign that he has lost confidence in the support of National Guard & military," Rubio wrote on Twitter. "Remember, the guardsmen & soldiers & their families are also suffering from the #Venezuela economic crisis."

 Venezuelans in South Florida who still have relatives living in Venezuela feared the rumblings of war. There was speculation Tuesday morning after Bolton was photographed carrying a notepad with a note: "5,000 troops to Colombia." 

Former Venezuelan soldiers Carlos Guillen Martinez and Josue Hidalgo Azuaje, told CNN they are in contact with hundreds of willing defectors, but they need support from the U.S. military. A Tuesday night Reuters report of a Nordwind Airlines' Boeing 777 flying to Caracas from Russia with room for 400 passengers was alarming.  

Activists identified some of the anti-Maduro protesters dead as Nick Samuel Oropeza Borjas, 19, Alixon Osorio Dos Santos Pizani, 19, Stefany Jajoy Natera, 20, Kevin Antonio Cárdenas Blanquez, 22, Frankie Alexander Nova Figuera, 23, Frank David Correa Gutiérrez, 25, Nicar Bermúdez Muñoz, 32, Luis Alberto Martínez, 32, Roger Jesús Cabello Orta, Johan David Cabrera Camejo and Samuel Oropeza Borges. 

The U.S. State Department warned Americans against traveling to Venezuela. After a meeting with Venezuelan politicians working with Guaido's administration, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart tweeted a picture that included Rep. Donna Shalala and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. 

"We are witnessing a historic moment for Venezuela," Diaz-Balart wrote. 

Local 10 News Correspondent Cody Weddle is reporting from Caracas. Local 10 News Digital Reporter/Producer Andrea Torres is writing from Miami. 

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