US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday expressed confidence that embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's "days are numbered," amid a violent impasse over humanitarian aid.
"Predictions are difficult. Picking exact days is difficult," Pompeo said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I'm confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro's days are numbered."
Pompeo's remarks came a day after a US-supported, opposition-led effort to bring humanitarian supplies into the country was repelled by Venezuelan border troops firing tear gas and rubber bullets killing two and injuring dozens of protesters.
Maduro, vowing to "never bow down" at a rally in Caracas, severed relations with neighboring Colombia for supporting the opposition bid.
Pompeo blamed armed Maduro loyalists known as "collectivos" for most of the violence at border crossings.
"We hope the military will take that role back in protecting their citizens from these tragedies. If that happens, I think good things will happen," he said.
The military command has pledged absolute loyalty to Maduro, although some officers and soldiers have deserted, heeding opposition appeals that they switch sides.
Pompeo said the United States, which recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president, remains committed to bringing in aid.
"We're aimed at a singular mission -- ensuring the Venezuelan people get the democracy they so richly deserve and the Cubans and the Russians who have been driving this country into the ground for years and years and years no longer hold sway," he said.
Guaido on Saturday said he will propose Washington to consider "all options" to oust Maduro.
"Today's events force me to make a decision: to formally propose to the international community that we must have all options open to secure the freedom of our country," Guaido said on Twitter.
The United States has been the top foreign backer of Guaido, who invoked Venezuela's constitution to assume an interim presidency last month and is now recognized by most Western nations as the OPEC nation's legitimate leader.
President Donald Trump has in the past said military intervention in Venezuela was "an option", though Guaido made no reference to it on Saturday. China, Russia support Maduro and warned against any force to oust his regime.
Maduro denies his oil-rich nation has any need of aid and accuses Guaido of being a coup-mongering puppet for Trump. Washington has warned it could seek to impose tough new sanctions on Venezuela at Monday's summit if Maduro blocked the aid shipments.