At UN, US warns of potential security threat from Venezuela

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) and his vice-president Tareck el-Aissami participate in a rally with workers of PDVSA state-owned oil company in Caracas

The United States hopes that a meeting next week at the United Nations on Venezuela will pave the way to international action to prevent the crisis from turning into a security threat, according to a US document sent to the Security Council on Friday.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley will chair the informal council meeting on Monday held as Venezuela, already reeling from political and economic crises, teeters on the brink of default.

"The international community needs to work collectively to address the unfolding crisis and its humanitarian impact in Venezuela and beyond before it worsens and potentially develops into a threat to international peace and security," the US mission said in the document obtained by AFP.

Venezuela has been in turmoil since anti-government protests in April left more than 100 dead and worsening shortages of food and medicine.

On Friday, the country was headed for a formal debt default, owing about $150 billion.

Over the past six months, over 500,000 Venezuelans have fled to Colombia and countries in the region, said the US document.

Neighboring countries are struggling to take in the Venezuelans who are becoming more vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual exploitation, it said.

"As the Venezuelan economy continues to crumble, the situation will likely only worsen especially as the country is at risk of defaulting on its debt," it added.

The council will hear from Luis Almagro, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS) and an outspoken critic of President Nicolas Maduro's government.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein will also address the meeting along with lawyer Julio Henriquez, the coordinator of the Foro Penal human rights organization and Joseph Donnelly of aid group Caritas International.

Haley has called on the council to turn its attention to Venezuela after leading a closed-door meeting of the top UN body on the crisis in May.

The council has up until now maintained that regional organizations were best placed to address the situation.

During a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres this week, Argentina's President Mauricio Macri said he urged the United Nations to help address the health and food emergency in Venezuela.