Posted on February 17, 2014 by

Venezuelan President Nicolas MaduroVenezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:2AM GMT

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the expulsion of three US consular officials accusing the United States of supporting Venezuelan opposition to destabilize the country.

Maduro ordered the expulsions on Sunday, as tensions rise over the anti-government demonstrations being held across the country.

The American consular officials were not identified; however, Maduro said they had met with university students involved in the protests.

“It’s a group of US functionaries who are in the universities. We’ve been watching them having meetings in the private universities for two months. They work in visas,” said the Venezuelan president.

Maduro said he would not tolerate threats to Venezuela’s sovereignty.

Meanwhile, Leopoldo Lopez, a leader of the opposition, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued, called on anti-government protesters to continue staging demonstrations in order to increase pressure on Maduro.

Lopez made the appeal in a video recording posted on his Twitter account on Sunday, in which he also said he would march together with the demonstrators on Tuesday in the capital, Caracas, and then hand himself in at the state prosecutor’s office.

Lopez, on the run over the past few days, harshly criticized the decision to issue a warrant for his arrest, saying the move is illegal.

Venezuelan authorities accuse the opposition leader of murder and terrorism in connection with last week’s anti-government protests, which left three people dead and dozens of others injured.

The deadly clashes between government opponents and security forces took place on February 12 during a protest in downtown Caracas to denounce Maduro’s handling of Venezuela’s ailing economy.

A day earlier, five anti-government protesters were shot in the western city of Merida, where students have clashed with police in recent days.