Nicolas Maduro
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On Monday the successor of the late Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, ordered the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats in retaliation for working with anti-government activists in Venezuela. The expulsion order coincided with a planned rally by the opposition.

Maduro had three other diplomats expelled in September, including the charge d'affairs, Kelly Keiderling, after the government accused them of plotting with opponents.

The leader of the opposition, Leopoldo López Mendoza, has challenged the government to arrest him. Student-led protests have posed a serious challenge to Maduro's government.

"I have ordered the foreign ministry to proceed with declaring those three consular officials persona non grata and expelling them from the country," Maduro told the South American nation in a broadcast. "Let them go conspire in Washington!"

Recent protests by students in Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo and other cities have gained international attention.

"We are deeply concerned by rising tensions, by the violence surrounding this February 12 protest and by the issuing of a warrant for the arrest of the opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Saturday.

Secretary of State John Kerry also issued a statement on recent violence resulting in the death of three people. "The United States is deeply concerned by rising tensions and violence surrounding this week's protests in Venezuela. Our condolences go to the families of those killed as a result of this tragic violence," he said, also on Saturday.

The success of the student movement remains in question. "The challenge that the student movement will face is in finding a way to include Venezuela's laboring class, which for the most part still supports the government, and relies on its redistributive policies," notes Zero Hedge. "Their inability to rouse broad support across Venezuela's social and economic classes was in part why previous student uprisings, including significant protests in 2007, failed to generate enough momentum to trigger a significant political shift."

The Maduro government did not provide evidence of State Department complicity in the protests and violence. Past efforts to unseat Maduro's predecessor, however, were orchestrated in part by the National Endowment for Democracy, the AFL-CIO corporate labor union, and the CIA.

"The U.S. embassy in Venezuela is very active. These days, its main strategy is subversion. This is manifested by USAID, NED, IRI, Freedom House, CIPE, etc. funding of opposition groups," Eva Golinger told Jean-Guy Allard of Granma International in 20