Two days after Venezuela's U.S.-backed opposition said they were finally ready to oust socialist president Nicolas Maduro, their efforts seemed to have stalled.
That would leave the Trump administration back at square one, even as it says it continues to consider "all options," including the use of the U.S. military.
At least four people died in the two days of protests, the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, a human rights group, told ABC News -- with 239 injured. Foro Penal, a Venezuelan prisoner rights group, reported that 205 people had been detained this week, including 15 minors.
Maduro, who has faced months of protests over the country's economic collapse and his consolidation of power, made a show of force Thursday, appearing on state television with soldiers and vowing to combat "traitors."
"Something good came from evil, which is loyalty, in full combat," Maduro said. "The time has come to defend the right to peace."
The streets of the capital Caracas appeared to have settled Thursday after two days of clashes between security forces still loyal to Maduro and supporters of Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition controlled-National Assembly who was sworn in as interim president by that body in January. The U.S. and 53 other countries, including neighbors Colombia and Brazil, have recognized Guaidó as the country's legitimate leader and urged Maduro to exit.
On Tuesday, that seemed likely. Guaidó appeared in a predawn video with opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who had been under house arrest, saying their push to oust Maduro had entered its "final phase." They called for an uprising in the streets and said they had the support of some of Maduro's key aides.
In particular, three senior officials -- Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, Presidential Guard chief Ivan Hernandez Dala, and Supreme Court chief justice Maikel Moreno -- were in talks with Guaidó's supporters to declare their allegiance to the constitution, according to U.S. officials. Maduro himself was prepared to depart the country and fly to Cuba, his airplane ready on the tarmac, according to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who blamed Russia for a last-minute intervention that caused Maduro to stay.
But at the end of the day, none of that had come to pass.
Instead of joining demonstrators, security forces met them with force. Dozens were injured after an armored vehicle plowed through a crowd and rubber bullets and tear gas were used to disperse demonstrations.
A second day of protests on Wednesday met the same fate. Thousands marched through Caracas, many in support of Guaidó and some in support of Maduro. Security forces again clashed with opposition protests, but there were no major defections.
Although the chief of Venezuela's intelligence service abandoned Maduro, the majority of his senior officials did not -- especially Padrino, who has made multiple appearances in support of Maduro.
Lopez went into hiding at the Spanish embassy with his family in Caracas, while Guaido was not seen on Thursday.
The top Trump administration officials met at the White House Wednesday to consider next steps. Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford convened a meeting -- although it's unclear what, if any, decisions were reached.
Bolton has warned that "all options" remain on the table, setting a red line over Guaidó's protection: "We want a peaceful transfer of power, but we are not going to see Guaidó mistreated by this regime," he told MSNBC Wednesday.
But senior Pentagon officials have seemed to shoot down the prospect of any use of American force. Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, told Congress Wednesday that the department was not preparing for a military conflict in Venezuela: "We of course always review available options and plan for contingencies, but in this case we have not been given sort of orders that you're discussing," she told one Congressman.
Diplomacy, instead, is still in the lead. Pompeo spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Wednesday to urge the Russian government to end its support of Maduro. The Russian Foreign Ministry in turn blamed the U.S. for an "illegal" intervention in Venezuela's domestic affairs.