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South America

Venezuela opposition leader Lopez surrenders to police amid protests

The leader of Venezuela's opposition, Leopoldo Lopez, has handed himself over to police on charges of fomenting violence. The main critic of President Maduro has been at the forefront of recent anti-government protests.

Speaking before a rally in Caracas on Tuesday, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez told supporters he didn't fear serving jail time. The 42-year-old politician was wanted on charges of inciting violence connected with recent mass demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro's government.

"We've got nothing to hide," Lopez told the crowd, before crossing the picket lines and handing himself over to security forces.

Subway stations were reportedly closed around the city as pro- and anti-government protesters held counterdemonstrations on Tuesday.

The Harvard-educated political figure has been accused by President Maduro of leading a "fascist" plot to overthrow the government.

Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez said on Sunday that an arrest warrant had been issued against Lopez for murder and terrorism connected with the violence that has surrounded anti-government protests during the past week. Police searched Lopez' parents' home the previous day as part of a manhunt to locate the opposition leader.

Violence broke out at demonstrations in Venezuela's capital city last week after protesters and security forces clashed. At least four people have been killed in the unrest.

Critics of President Maduro have been holding mass demonstrations to force his resignation. They blame him for supporting economic policies that have driven inflation above 50 percent, led to a shortage of hard currency and of consumer goods. The left-wing leader rose to power last year after long-time President Hugo Chavez passed away.

On Monday, the Venezuelan president ordered the expulsion of three US consular officials, whom he had accused of being linked to students involved in anti-government protests. They are suspected of using visa outreach as a cover up for infiltrating the country's university system.

kms/hc (AP, Reuters)

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