Venezuela expelling US consular officials

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expelling three U.S. consular officials following days of violent anti-government protests, according to multiple reports.

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"It's a group of U.S. functionaries who are in the universities. We've been watching them having meetings in the private universities for two months. They work in visas," Maduro said, the BBC reported.

Maduro did not name the officials, but said Venezuela’s foreign minister would provide more details, according to the network

Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement over the weekend condemning the “senseless violence” in Venezuela, saying that U.S. officials were “particularly alarmed” by reports that the Venezuelan government had arrested or detained protesters and issued an arrest warrant for Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader.

“These actions have a chilling effect on citizens' rights to express their grievances peacefully,” Kerry said.

“We call on the Venezuelan government to provide the political space necessary for meaningful dialogue with the Venezuelan people and to release detained protestors,” Kerry added.

“We urge all parties to work to restore calm and refrain from violence.”

Kerry said that freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are “universal human rights” that are essential to a functioning democracy.

The Venezuelan government “has an obligation to protect these fundamental freedoms and the safety of its citizens,” he said.