Venezuela expels US officials amid protests and demonstrations


February 17th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) The president of Venezuela has ordered the expulsion of three unnamed U.S. embassy officials in a retaliatory move after Washington came to the defense of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday the arrest warrant for Lopez has a chilling effect on the rights of Venezuelan citizens to peacefully express their grievances.

Late Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the U.S. of backing the opposition with its protests, and said he does not “take orders from anyone in the world.”

After several days of anti-government protests, Maduro held a counter-demonstration Saturday, using the pro-government rally in Caracas to denounce Lopez.

Authorities are on the hunt for Lopez for organizing anti-government protests that turned violent. Three people were killed last week, including two opposition protesters.

Maduro called Lopez a “fascist” and a “coward” Saturday, and urged him to turn himself in.

Venezuelan forces used tear gas and water cannons against hundreds of student protesters Friday, angry at Maduro for soaring inflation, shortages in supermarkets, and rampant crime.

Nearly 100 people have been arrested in the recent protests.

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