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Venezuela crisis: Violence fears as strike action begins

Venezuela crisis: Violence fears as strike action beginsImage copyright Reuters Image caption OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro said the Venezuelan government had "blood on its hands"

The head of the Organization of American States (OAS) has warned of a "calamitous deterioration" of the situation in Venezuela.

"The fear we have, and which we are afraid to say out loud, is that this situation could turn into a bloodbath," he said.

The warning came shortly before a 24-hour strike began on Thursday.

Previous opposition protests have ended in clashes and almost 100 people have been killed since the start of April.

In his third report on the economic and political crisis in Venezuela , Mr Almagro accused President Nicolás Maduro's government of having "blood on its hands".

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Protesters and members of the National Guard regularly clash at protests

"Behind every detainee, every political prisoner, every person tortured and every person killed there is someone that is institutionally responsible," Mr Almagro wrote.

"This regime and its rampant corruption are responsible."

Venezuela crisis: Violence fears as strike action begins

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Media caption Venezuelan children are suffering from malnutrition as shortages get worse

Mr Almagro has long been one of the fiercest and most outspoken critics of the Venezuelan government.

But in recent days he has been joined by a number of international leaders in putting pressure on President Maduro.

Colombia, France, Spain, the US and the EU have urged the Venezuelan government to cancel elections for a constituent assembly on 30 July.

On Tuesday, the New York Times and Spain's El País newspaper published an opinion piece by renowned Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel saying that the assembly was "not the answer".

Image copyright EPA Image caption Conductor Gustavo Dudamel on Tuesday spoke out publicly against the constituent assembly

The assembly would have the power to rewrite the constitution and to bypass the opposition-controlled legislature.

Opposition politicians say Mr Maduro wants to use the assembly to entrench himself in power, while the president argues a new constitution will promote dialogue in the polarised country.

The opposition have ramped up their schedule of protests in the days leading up to the elections, including a general 24-hour strike from 10:00 GMT on Thursday and a mass demonstration on Saturday.


Image copyright EPA Image caption "Not legal" - President Maduro's verdict on Sunday's poll
  • Almost 100 people have been killed in clashes stemming from the political conflict
  • The deep economic crisis is made worse by the falling price of oil, which accounts for about 95% of Venezuela's export revenues and was used to finance some of the government's social programmes. Forced to make cuts, President Nicolás Maduro has seen his support fall among core backers
  • Basic necessities, such as medicine and food, are in short supply
  • The opposition accuses Mr Maduro of mismanaging the economy and eroding democratic institutions
  • In March, the Supreme Court decided it would take over the National Assembly. The decision was reversed, but Mr Maduro was accused by opponents of trying to stage a coup. That sparked almost
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