United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet says sanctions have worsened Venezuela crisis

Venezuela descended into a major political crisis when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president in January and asserted that President Nicolas Maduro was no longer legitimate

Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido vowed on Tuesday to step up the pressure on President Nicolas Maduro a day after defying the threat of arrest to return to a hero's welcome in Caracas.

Still, Maduro was defiant during a ceremony marking the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez, belittling a "minority of opportunists and cowards".

Earlier, Venezuela's Supreme Court prohibited Guaido from leaving the country, but he managed to escape.

"Today more than ever, we are victorious against the conspiracy, against blackmail, while a insane minority continues with their hatred", he said in his first public comments since Juan Guaido's return.

The U.S. -backed opposition figure has also planned to bring in foreign humanitarian aid, including those from the U.S. through the Colombian border, to allegedly alleviate the country's economic crisis.

Once unknown, the 35-year-old has now gained the support of many Venezuelans and 65 foreign countries, including the U.S., Canada and U.K. He returned to Venezuela Monday after a trip overseas to rally support from the worldwide community.

Guaido flouted a travel ban to tour Latin American countries to muster support for his plan for a transition government ahead of free and fair elections. They don't know how to respond to Venezuela's people.

The man who says he is the rightful president, meanwhile, escalated his campaign to topple Maduro with an appeal for support from state unions, long reliant on government handouts.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, an influential voice in advocating U.S measures against Maduro, warned that the Venezuelan government could still act against Guaido in ways that it has refined against other opposition voices.

He has vowed to set up a transitional government and hold new elections.

"That's ultimately a decision for Venezuelans to make", Abrams said.

The U.S. envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said in Washington that Maduro had presided over economic decline and human rights violations in Venezuela.

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

He urged state workers to prepare for a strike, though no date was given and he said an immediate priority would be to promote a law guaranteeing rights for public workers.

While global pressure on the president has steadily increased - more than 50 countries, including the U.S. and most Latin American nations, have recognised Mr Guaido as interim leader - Maduro has dismissed all calls for him to step down. There was no investment and tens of thousands of employees had abandoned their positions in recent years, they said.

During his travels, Guaido met Pence and the leaders of Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Ecuador.

President Nicolas Maduro has not been seen in public over the recent days either, and has made no statements after the return of Guaido. Maduro retains control of state institutions and the loyalty of senior figures in the armed forces.

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