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Venezuela Government, Opposition Head for Showdown

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez re-emerged from days of hiding Tuesday to address an anti-government demonstration and then handed himself over to security forces in Caracas.

The 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist who has spearheaded an opposition protest movement was wanted on charges including murder and terrorism. He said turning himself in will open the world's eyes to Venezuela's increasingly authoritarian socialist government.

President Nicolas Maduro accuses Lopez of inciting violence and leading a U.S.-backed conspiracy to oust him from power.

Days of bloody anti-government street protests have resulted in four deaths. Lopez's Popular Will party is protesting soaring inflation, shortages in supermarkets, and rampant crime.

On Monday, Mr. Maduro ordered the expulsion of three U.S. Embassy officials, after Washington came to Lopez's defense.



U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the Lopez arrest warrant has a chilling effect on the rights of Venezuelans to peacefully express their grievances.

Before turning himself in to authorities, Lopez told about 5,000 supporters that he does not fear going to jail to defend his beliefs and constitutional right to peacefully protest.

He said, "I present myself to an unjust judiciary. They want to jail Venezuelans who want peaceful, democratic change."

Supporters of Lopez rerouted their protest march away from the central plaza in Caracas where pro-government oil workers planned their own demonstration.

Student-led protests have multiplied this month across the nation of 29 million people in the biggest challenge to President Maduro since his election last year following Hugo Chavez's death.

Protest numbers, though, are smaller than mass movements in places such as Brazil, Ukraine and the Middle East.



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