CARACAS — Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said Sunday he was expelling three U.S. consular officials, accusing them of conspiring with the opposition forces to foment unrest as violent protests ran into a fifth straight night.

“We are determined to defend our country,” said Maduro on state television Sunday night.

The expulsions come after two weeks of sporadic protests against across the country. Students and opposition supporters have taken to the streets, angry with the country’s high murder rate and crumbling economy.

Tear gas and water cannons were used in Caracas repeatedly last week to disperse troublemakers who pelted police with rocks and burned trash in the streets. At least three people have been killed in the violence.

Opposition leader Leopoldo López has backed the protests though now faces an arrest warrant on charges of murder and terrorism. He will lead a march on Tuesday through Caracas and says he will surrender to authorities if arrested.

“I’ve got nothing to fear. I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said in a video released on YouTube on Sunday evening, calling for the march to be peaceful. “If there is an illegal decision to jail me, I will accept it… We’re on the right side of history, the right side of justice.”

In a statement released on Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States is “deeply concerned by rising tensions and violence surrounding this week’s protests in Venezuela.”… see more

source: usatoday