Venezuelan Opposition leader charged with inciting violence

Caracas, April 5: Venezuelan authorities Friday formally charged jailed right-wing Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez with inciting violence, vandalism and conspiracy for his involvement in violent protests that have left 39 people dead since early February.

“He has been formally charged and he will have his first preliminary hearing at a later date, before the trial takes place, but setting the date is now up to the corresponding judge,” Xinhua quoted Attorney General Luisa Ortega as saying in a press conference.

As stipulated by law, Lopez was charged within a period of 45 days after he came out of hiding and turned himself in to authorities Feb 18, Ortega said.

In the past week, 67 people have been formally charged for various crimes relating to the protests, and five of those arrested have been discharged, said Ortega.

Among the fatal victims of the clashes are eight police or military personnel, while 608 people have been injured, she added.

“Our citizens’ human rights have been violated all over the country because millions of Venezuelans haven’t been able to get to work, take their kids to school or go to a hospital, because small groups have prevented their freedom of movement,” said Ortega.

Lopez, along with former congresswoman Maria Machado and members of his extremist Popular Will party, are the architects of a plan known here as “The Exit”, which calls for the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Nicolas Maduro.

On Feb 12, Lopez led an anti-government march that turned violent. Clashes between protesters and security officers had left three dead and more than 50 injured.

The march triggered a wave of violent protests in the capital Caracas and other cities, claiming the lives of 39 people and causing some $10 billion in damage to public buildings and other venues.

IANS