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Venezuela Expels 3 U.S. Diplomats

President Maduro ordered three U.S. diplomats to leave Venezuela Sunday saying they and a protest leader have conspired to overthrow his government.
Posted at 9:21 AM, Feb 17, 2014

With anti-government protests in Venezuela showing no signs of losing momentum, Sunday the president ordered three U.S. diplomats to leave the country.

"Nicolas Maduro is accusing them of conspiring against his government. The president also issued an arrest warrant for a protest leader after a fifth day of anti-government unrest." (Via Al Jazeera)

Protests starting about two weeks ago were mostly peaceful with students and opposition leaders angry over Venezuela's struggling economy. (Via USA Today)

But the protests turned violent Wednesday after reports of unidentified attackers on motorcycles firing into crowds killing both two anti-government protesters and a government supporter. (Via RT)

Authorities issued an arrest warrant for protest leader Leopoldo Lopez after those attacks, charging him with conspiracy and murder. Lopez says the Maduro's administration was behind the attacks, leading up to this latest back-and-forth.

On Saturday, a U.S. State Department spokesperson released a statement calling protesters "peaceful."

"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." (Via CNN)

President Maduro countered saying the U.S. calling protesters peaceful was a lie.

"Mr. Maduro says Mr. Lopez is on the U.S. government's payroll. He has accused Washington of plots before, and this is the third time he has expelled U.S. diplomats in a little over a year." (Via BBC)

Lopez released this three-minute video Sunday with the background blurred from an undisclosed location. He said he will lead another protest Tuesday and will then turn himself in. (Via YouTube / Leopoldo Lopez)

While encouraging protesters not to resort to violence, he said, "I haven't committed any crime. If there is a decision to legally throw me in jail, I'll submit myself to this persecution." (Via RT)

After Tuesday's protest, Lopez says he plans to walk alone into a government building with a petition demanding a full investigation of the government's role in last week's deaths.