February 17, 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has expelled three U.S. consular officials from the country due to suspected conspiracy with the conservative opposition. Meanwhile opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has announced he will lead another march against the government in Caracas tomorrow.
President Maduro informed the country of the decision to expel the U.S. officials during a national broadcast last night. He said the officials had organised meetings in private Venezuelan universities “with the story of offering visas”.
“While there, they [the officials] had some strange meetings, and as we have decided that we must be respected…let them go to Washington and conspire there, and leave Venezuela alone!” Maduro declared. The consular officials were given 48 hours to leave Venezuela.
On Saturday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry criticised the Venezuelan government for arrests made during on-going opposition protests and violence, and for issuing an arrest warrant against opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who is wanted for his alleged role in last Wednesday’s violent clashes in Caracas. Kerry said the actions “have a chilling effect on citizen’s rights to express their grievances peacefully”.
That day the Venezuelan Ministry for Interior Affairs announced that of 120 people arrested in connection to violent protests, only fourteen remained in custody, to be charged with specific crimes such as carrying arms and setting fire to police vehicles.
Yesterday the Venezuelan government responded to Kerry’s criticisms, saying they were “one more maneuver of the Washington government to promote and legitimise the attempts to destabilise Venezuelan democracy that violent groups have unleashed in recent days”.
President Maduro also said that the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Alex Lee, had called Venezuela’s ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, with a list of “demands” of how the Venezuelan government should proceed.
According to Maduro, these “instructions” were: release everyone arrested in recent protests, drop all charges against Leopoldo Lopez, and to engage in talks with the opposition. The Venezuelan president said his response to the U.S. was that these demand s were “insolent” and “unacceptable”, and that he “doesn’t accept threats from anyone”.
“In case anyone is in doubt, in Venezuela a plan is underway to create a political crisis and justify a state coup. We patriots must be clear where we stand, [and] what we represent in this moment of history,” the president declared. He also hit back at the U.S., saying that for the U.S. government human rights means “the right of the right-wing to overthrow legitimate governments”.