02:10 - Source: CNN
Youth stage protests in Venezuela

Story highlights

NEW: An opposition party says government troops raided its headquarters

Venezuela accuses three U.S. diplomats of infiltrating universities and expels them

The State Department calls Venezuela's conspiracy claims "baseless and false"

The expulsion comes after the U.S. expressed concern over rising tensions

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 State Department fired back, calling that claim “baseless and false” and saying the United States had not yet received any formal notification of the officials’ expulsion.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua accused the U.S. officials of using a visa program as a cover to meet with youth organizers at private universities “for training, financing and creating youth organizations through which violence is promoted in Venezuela.”

READ: 17-year-old dies during Venezuelan protests

The expulsion, which President Nicolas Maduro first announced Sunday, comes after the State Department expressed concerns about rising tensions 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.

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.

“We have raised a flag of change to organize millions of Venezuelans, that we want to effect change in a peaceful manner, not in a violent way,” Lopez told CNN.

While opposition groups plan another protest Tuesday, government officials appear to be looking for support beyond the country’s borders.

Jaua said he plans to meet Tuesday with ambassadors from Latin American and Caribbean nations, and with ambassadors from Russia and China, to discuss the recent violence.

On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called for dialogue in Venezuela as tensions mount.

“We support human rights and fundamental freedoms – including freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly – in Venezuela as we do in countries around the world,” she said. “But as we have long said, Venezuela’s political future is for the Venezuelan people to decide. We urge their government to engage all parties in meaningful dialogue.”

READ: 17-year-old dies during Venezuelan protests

Protests and violence in Venezuela

CNN’s Nelson Quiñones, Miguel Escalona, Shirley Henry and Marysabel Husto-Crespo contributed to this report.