Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered three U.S. officials out of the country for "conspiring" against him and his country on Monday, following American criticism of his government over recent student-led anti-government protests in Caracas. On Saturday, thousands of pro- and anti-government activists demonstrated in the capital, with competing rallies occasionally turning violent.
Maduro singled out the Americans for visiting universities and offering visas to students, though he has not specified why they should be deported or who the officials are. This is not the first time Maduro has lashed out to divert attention from domestic problems. The leader essentially inherited the presidency from beloved leader Hugo Chavez, who endorsed Maduro before succumbing to a battle with cancer, and is questionably qualified for the gig. During Maduro's first year as president, Venezuelans have struggled with rising food prices, inflation and crime rates. Maduro may even be forced to mess with one of Venezuela's most treasured traditions — insanely low gas prices.
In efforts to cloud these issues, Maduro has accused the U.S. and others of countless infringements. In September, Maduro sent three other U.S. officials home for sabotaging the country's economy, and in April he accused Washington of inciting violence after he was elected president. He also said the U.S. poisoned Chavez to death, and once accused Spiderman of violence in the country.
On Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement of concern about days of protest in Venezuela, which turned deadly last week when three anti-government protesters were killed in clashes, and more than one hundred arrested. Kerry said:
The United States is deeply concerned by rising tensions and violence surrounding this week’s protests in Venezuela. Our condolences go to the families of those killed as a result of this tragic violence. We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors and issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. These actions have a chilling effect on citizens’ rights to express their grievances peacefully.
Maduro blames the deaths on opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who said that he will lead a march to deliver a list of demands and petitions accusing the government of responsibility for the deaths to the ministry tomorrow, one week after the protests began, despite facing charges of conspiracy and murder. He said in a video posted to YouTube, "I've not committed any crime." The opposition leader has been laying low since a warrant for his arrest was issued on Wednesday.
Lopez is not the only one accusing Venezuela's government of being responsible for the protesters' deaths. Governor Henrique Capriles, who lost the presidency to Maduro during elections last year, said that "after several days it's obvious that students aren't with the violence." He added that Maduro's government was using violence to "hide the grave problems that the country is facing with the scarcity of food, medicine, the inflation, devaluation and insecurity." That method doesn't really seem to be working.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.