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Venezuela leader expels US officials amid protests



CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Nicolas Maduro's government on Monday gave three U.S. Embassy officials 48 hours to leave the country, accusing the Obama administration of siding with student protesters who Venezuela accuses of inciting violence.

The announcement by Foreign Minister Elias Jaua came amid fears that renewed clashes could erupt Tuesday when both pro- and anti-government activists have announced plans for demonstrations in the capital.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said that the senior U.S. consular officers were trying to infiltrate Venezuelan universities, the hotbed of the recent unrest, under the cover of doing visa outreach. Repeating charges by Maduro, who has expelled American diplomats twice before, Jaua said that the U.S. is conspiring with opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and student activists in an attempt to oust the socialist president.

The U.S. has denied the charges but is expressing concern about rising violence that led to three deaths last week during anti-government demonstrations, and about the government's attempts to block peaceful protests.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that Lopez's arrest would have a "chilling effect" on Venezuelans' right to free expression.

More than 1,000 students, who have spent the past week on the streets alternating between peaceful protests by day and battles with police at night, marched on Monday to Venezuela's telecommunications regulator to demand it lift all restrictions on the news media's coverage of the unfolding political crisis. There were no reports of new disturbances.

Several journalists were harassed and detained, and Colombia's news channel NTN24 was taken off cable television, while covering protests Wednesday that ended in a battle between student demonstrators and security forces backed by armed pro-government militias.

Three people were killed - two students and a pro-government demonstrator. News videos and photographs taken at the time indicate that at least one of the students was killed when militias fired directly at protesters.

Maduro accuses Lopez of being behind the violence and the head of a "fascist" plot to overthrow him two months after his party's candidates won mayoral elections by a landslide. In a rally with thousands of supporters Saturday Maduro dared Lopez, a Harvard-trained former mayor, to turn himself in after a court ordered his arrest on charges ranging from vandalism of public property to homicide.

Lopez said that he doesn't fear going to jail to defend his beliefs. In a video message Sunday, he called on supporters to march with him in white shirts to the Interior Ministry, where he'll deliver a petition demanding the government protect citizens' rights to peacefully protest.

"I haven't committed any crime," said Lopez, who hasn't been seen in public since a Wednesday night news conference after the bloodshed. "If there is a decision to legally throw me in jail I'll submit myself to this persecution."

To avoid another violent clash, Lopez aides on Monday rerouted their upcoming protest away from the central plaza in Caracas where a competing march of pro-government oil workers will talk place.

Maduro called for the Tuesday march in a televised address Sunday in which he blasted the U.S. for trying to stir unrest to regain dominance of South America's largest oil producer.

As evidence to support those claims, Jaua on Monday presented what he said was a series of e-mails from embassy officials from 2009-2011 soliciting funding from Washington to support student groups in Venezuela. He said more recent communications also exist, but are under wraps during an ongoing investigation.

The three expelled officials - Breeann Marie McCusker, Jeffrey Gordon Elsen and Kristofer Lee Clark - all enjoyed the rank of second secretary, and two of them were vice consuls, Jaua said.

In Washington, the State Department said it hadn't received any formal notification of the expulsions. It said reports that the U.S. is helping to organize protests are "baseless and false" and called on the Venezuelan government to engage the opposition in "meaningful dialogue."

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Lisa Marie February 18 2014 at 5:28 PM

Attn American Govt.....STOP being ASS KISSERS and focus on your own people instead of others who hate us!!!!! Nobody will ever respect an ASS KISSER...GOT IT WASHINGTON???? F_ING MORONS!

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thuff31564 February 18 2014 at 2:36 PM

We need to leave there and take all our money and business with us. No aid, no more purchasing of oil, eliminate all the Citgos and subsidiaries in the USA. Kick out all the Venzualans in the USA and block all shipments of anything we buy from these people from coming into this country for sale. See how fast they all dwindle away.

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2 replies to thuff31564's comment
HELENE February 18 2014 at 6:49 PM

You got that right.

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kubi490 February 19 2014 at 4:20 AM

but you keep putting your usa officials in the heart of these countries

think there is something wrong w/the usa government officials mentality?

you bet and the sad part of all of this is.....the American people have no idea what their officials are doing until after the fact

and then there is you, thuff stupid is as stupid does as you could stop all these knee jerks that work for our government to do anything worth printing

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sh1neonme February 18 2014 at 2:22 PM

We are in trouble with debt but we always help others and this is what we get hmmmmm

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1 reply to sh1neonme's comment
kubi490 February 19 2014 at 4:21 AM

this has been going on for eons you need to get a life and a little knowledge while you attempt a post.

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sh1neonme February 18 2014 at 2:21 PM

We are in trouble because we helpothers and this is what we get hmmmmmmmmmm

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pizzageogh February 18 2014 at 12:02 PM

Might be time for our government and the tree huggers to let us start getting the benefit of our own oil supplies!

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pizzageogh February 18 2014 at 12:01 PM

I think we should have our people come on home! Then we should stop bringing the 2.25 million barrels of oil a day that we buy from them here too. That right 2.25 million barrels a day! With oil at $100 a barrel, do the math!

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1 reply to pizzageogh's comment
thuff31564 February 18 2014 at 2:39 PM

I still can not beleive that Citgo's are still in business in the USA? Chavas was a dictator that owned Citgo and he was bent on backing terrorists to come into the USA too kill us. How come that bit of news never gets any coverage.

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klpatrick4 February 18 2014 at 11:46 AM

I can't believe we actually have an embassy there anyway. I say recall them home and let the people of Venezuela fight it out on their own.

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fordboss2 February 18 2014 at 11:44 AM

SO, DO WE HAVE ANYONE IN OUR GOVERNMENT THAT HAS THE GUTS TO TELL THEM GOODBYE TO THE AID THAT WE SEND THEM? BET THEY WILL RETHINK THAT ACTION IF WE DO!! THAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH THIS COUNTRY, WE GIVE AID TO ALL THESE 3RD. WORLD COUNTRIES AND THEY FORGET HOW WE HELP THEM ALL THE TIME AND PULL STUFF LIKE THIS. I SAY LETS GET OUT OF THERE AND LET THEM HAVE IT ALL - WITHOUT OUR MONEY!!!

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2 replies to fordboss2's comment
cowboysindianssf February 18 2014 at 12:58 PM

Maybe you should know what your talking about it before you make stupid statements like this. First of all, we don't give Venezuela any Foreign aid money. We haven't since 2005. Second Venezuela is not a 3rd world country and Third we are depended on the oil we buy from them. You act like we were helping them out.
As far as you typing in all caps doesn't help your situation either.

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1 reply to cowboysindianssf's comment
thuff31564 February 18 2014 at 2:42 PM

We give everyone money. You can bet it is funneled to them from us one way or another. How about everytime someone goes to a Citgo station to fill up? How much revenue do we contribute to them supplying money to hire terrorists to destroy us? There are plenty of other under the table deals taking place too I am sure of it. Your the one that does not know what your talking about.

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kubi490 February 19 2014 at 4:35 AM

so why are you capitalizing your entire post when you know the answer to your own post

because the taxpayers/voters have no say....do you get it????????????????????????????????

no say....and you post addresses nothing except the same old government rhetoric+-

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posthuf February 18 2014 at 11:44 AM

Ah yes.

Yet another hillary Department of State success. She should be so proud!
And kerry is continuing her good work. She should call on him as her VP!

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2 replies to posthuf's comment
Dave February 18 2014 at 1:00 PM

A more moronic commentary would be difficult to find.

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kubi490 February 19 2014 at 5:02 AM

but it's all one and the same.....the democratic party

and then there is the republican party

and then there is the taxpayer who foots the bill for these two behemoth taxpayers choices

and then there is the welfare party who votes the democrat party but doesn't contribute to their wildass multi-milliom $ vacations, their insider trading, their bogus "don't exist programs" that cost the taxpayers "billions" and are never implemented. but create cash "to these dirty politiciians and their cronies"

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Glenn February 18 2014 at 11:39 AM

I think they should leave, the country needs the toilet paper!!

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