Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guardsmen line up near a Divine Mercy Jesus Christ poster outside the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. Venezuela's chief prosecutor on Tuesday asked the country's top court to ban opposition National Assembly President Juan Guaido from leaving the country, launching a criminal probe into his anti-government activities while international pressure builds against President Nicolas Maduro.(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
At least 40 people were believed to have been killed in Venezuela’s recent violence, including 26 shot by pro-government forces, five killed in house raids and 11 during looting, UN human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said yesterday.

He said that more than 850 people had been detained between January 21 and 26, including 77 children, some as young as 12. On January 23, 696 people were detained across the country, the highest daily number of detentions in Venezuela in 20 years.

Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido says the opposition is in behind-the-scenes talks with the military as he tries to wrest power from Nicolas Maduro.

“A political decision” by the army command “respecting the constitution” would topple incumbent President Maduro, Guaido said in an interview with the Colombian daily El Tiempo, published on Monday.

Asked if soldiers would comply, Guaido replied: “Yes, I believe that. And we are working to facilitate that route.”

Guaido earlier said that the opposition was holding talks with “government officials, civilian and military men”.

“This is a very delicate subject involving personal security. We are meeting with them, but discreetly,” he said.

The army has so far sided with Maduro. Guaido, who presides over the opposition-dominated National Assembly and declared himself interim president last week, has promised an amnesty to soldiers who support fresh elections and a political transition.

Maduro’s Defence Minister, Vladimir Padrino, meanwhile vowed to defend Venezuela against “any aggression, of any nature or intensity”.

“We would be unworthy of wearing this uniform and these symbols of the fatherland, if we did not face up to this difficult moment of an incontestable threat against the fatherland,” Padrino said before marching with top army brass through the Tiuna fortress in Caracas on Monday. Maduro accuses the US of having instigated what he describes as Guaido’s attempt of a “coup” against his government.

Asked whether the US could at some point use force against the Maduro regime, Guaido said “it is a very delicate subject” and that he hoped such a situation wouldn’t arise.

“However, the recent official statements of the State Department indicate that the US will use all of its economic and diplomatic power, and not military, to pressure the Maduro regime,” he added.

At the weekend, Guaido tried to bring the army to his side by publishing the amnesty law approved by the National Assembly.

Guaido has called massive protests against the government for this week. Reuters dpa African News Agency (ANA)