John Kerry says Venezuela 'terror campaign' must end
- 14 March 2014
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the government of Venezuela must end its "terror campaign against its own citizens".
Mr Kerry said the Organization of American States (OAS), allies and neighbours should demand accountability of Venezuela over the protests.
Authorities say 28 people have died since they began more than a month ago.
Venezuela accuses the United States of helping "right-wing fascists" to plot a coup with the unrest.
Mr Kerry's remarks are the starkest from Washington since the protests began.
"We are trying to find a way to get the [President Nicolas] Maduro government to engage with their citizens, to treat them respectfully, to end this terror campaign against his own people and to begin to, hopefully, respect human rights in an appropriate way", Mr Kerry told a committee in the US Congress.
American legislators have been debating whether or not to impose sanctions on the oil-rich nation.
President Maduro said his week that his government had "neutralised" a "right-wing coup".
He blamed groups in the United States, Venezuela and other Latin American countries for the alleged plan.
The Venezuelan government has already expelled the Panamanian ambassador and three other diplomats.
Last month, three US diplomats were also declared "persona non-grata", following accusations of conspiring with protesting students.
Venezuela's Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said on Thursday that 28 people had died in the protests.
Also on Thursday, renewed clashes between protesters and security forces took place in Caracas, where government supporters also marched.
The protests started in the western states of Merida and Tachira at the beginning of February by disgruntled students, who demanded more security in the region.
Dozens of demonstrators were arrested.
Less than two weeks later, three people were shot dead in Caracas on the fringes of a protest demanding students and other activists be freed.
On Wednesday, another three people died in fresh protests in the central city of Valencia.
The government and the opposition have traded accusations over the killings.
Rival marches have been taking place nearly on a daily basis, with street barricades in place in opposition strongholds.
But the government vowed to tackle the roadblocks and demanded that mayors from the opposition also take action to free the streets.