March 7, 2014
Venezuela: jailed protest leader López urges Maduro's 'exit'
Imprisoned protest leader Leopoldo Lopez urged supporters to keep fighting for the departure of Venezuela's socialist government, even as he was due in court today accused of fomenting unrest that has killed at least four people.
Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, surrendered to troops yesterday after spearheading three weeks of often rowdy demonstrations around Venezuela that have turned into the biggest challenge yet to President Nicolas Maduro.
"Today more than ever, our cause has to be the exit of this government," Lopez said, sitting next to his wife in a pre-recorded video to be released if he was arrested.
"The exit from this disaster, the exit of this group of people who have kidnapped the future of Venezuelans is in your hands. Let's fight. I will be doing so."
The protests and the violence around them have left three people shot dead, another run over by a car during a demonstration, and scores of arrests and injuries.
Many Caracas residents banged pots and pans overnight in a traditional form of protest, while some protesters burned tires and clashed with police in the capital and some other parts of the nation. The western Andean cities of Tachira and Merida have been especially volatile.
The protesters are calling for Maduro's resignation over issues ranging from inflation and violent crime to corruption and product shortages.
Maduro says Lopez and others in league with the US government are seeking a coup against him.