Skip to main content

Venezuela orders three U.S. diplomatic officials out of the country

By Nelson Quiñones, CNN
updated 9:38 AM EST, Mon February 17, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry says the U.S. government is "lying"
  • 3 U.S. officials are accused of conspiring against the Venezuelan government
  • The announcement comes after the U.S. expressed concern over rising tensions
  • An arrest warrant has been issued for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez

(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday ordered three U.S. diplomatic officials expelled from the country, accusing them of conspiring against his government.

The announcement comes after the U.S. State Department expressed concerns about the state of affairs in Venezuela.

Three anti-government protesters died in clashes last week in Caracas, and authorities have issued an arrest warrant for an opposition leader on charges including conspiracy and murder in connection with the violence.

"We are deeply concerned by rising tensions, by the violence surrounding this February 12 protest and by the issuing of a warrant for the arrest of the opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Saturday.

"We join the secretary general of (the Organization of American States) in condemning the violence and calling on authorities to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the death of peaceful protesters."

But the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry fired back at the Obama administration.

"The U.S. government is lying when the denounced the arrest of anti- peaceful protesters," the ministry said in a statement. "The world must know that there is sufficient evidence that the groups that have caused violence in recent days are headed by Mr. Leopoldo López."

Lopez's party, Popular Will, has accused the government of being responsible for violence during the protests.

In a YouTube video posted from an undisclosed location over the weekend, Lopez called for new anti-government protests Tuesday and vowed to show his face in front of Venezuela's Justice Ministry and hand over a list of demands from the Venezuelan people to government officials.

"It has been said in recent days that they want to see me held prisoner. I will be there to show my face. I have nothing to be afraid of. I have not committed any crime. I have been a Venezuelan committed to our country, to our people, to our constitution and to our future," he said. "If there is some decision to illegally imprison me, well, I will be there, to assume this persecution and this infamous decision by the state."

He encouraged protesters to be peaceful and to allow him to walk the final stretch to the ministry alone.

Protests and violence in Venezuela

CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:26 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
A year ago, 1,000 garment workers died in the collapse of Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. Here's a look at what has changed since then.
updated 12:53 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Focus is on the fish as U.S. President starts tour with visit to legendary Tokyo restaurant.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Fireworks are fantastic and human endeavor has its place, but sometimes Mother Nature outshines any performance we can produce.
updated 11:06 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In 1987, China sent its very first email. Here's what it said,
updated 10:13 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
The world's new fastest elevator will fling you from earth to the 95th floor before you're done reading this article.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In one U.S. state, a new bill will allow ordinary citizens to carry guns in all sorts of places. Does it make you feel safer?
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
In South Korea, volunteer divers are risking their lives to rescue victims of the sunken ferry.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Park Jee Young, 22, helped passengers escape as the Sewol ferry sank -- giving out life jackets while refusing to wear one herself.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
What did outgoing manager David Moyes get wrong in his six months with English Premier League football team Manchester United?
updated 1:36 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, here are 15 of the world's most amazing theaters.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
CNN exclusive: Australian officials are hammering out a new agreement for widening the Flight 370 search area.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Malaysian officials sent to brief Chinese families are armed with little to no information.
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
When a team of Indian surgeons opened up the stomach of a 63-year-old man, they had no idea they'd extract a fortune.
updated 3:01 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Do these photos CNN of gun-toting men wearing green uniforms prove Russian forces are in eastern Ukraine?
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
If the Duchess wears it, then your fashion career is sorted for life.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT