Latin America needs to take action to help Venezuela resolve its political crisis or risk the country turning into a "sea of blood," Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said on Monday, warning that a wave of refugees could hit neighbouring Colombia.
Kuczynski said during a conference in Madrid that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro should let humanitarian aid enter his oil-producing but economically ailing country.
Dozens of people have been killed in protests against Maduro's socialist government since April.
"If nothing is done, we are going to end up with a sea full of blood," said Kuczynski, a former banker who has taken the lead among Latin American leaders in criticizing Maduro.
He warned of the threat of massive immigration to Colombia, and said desperate refugees might even try to get to the Caribbean island of Curacao, risking a replay of the deadly Mediterranean journeys of refugees from Syria and Iraq.
"We have to avoid that. If Latin America has any solidarity among countries, we have to try to find a solution," Kuczynski said, according to a statement from his office in Lima.
Venezuela has lost many regional allies as several Latin American countries have moved to the right in recent years.
Human rights groups have criticized the Venezuelan government's response to the protests, saying its "excessive use of force" and militarization have escalated the violence.
Venezuelan officials say the world is turning a blind eye to opposition brutality including shootings of security officials and recruitment of underage protesters.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino in Lima; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Peter Cooney)