Lopez, who was arrested on February 18 after helping launch a
nationwide protest movement, demanded top officials including the
interior minister resign over the use of force against demonstrators
in violence that has killed at least 18 people.
"We must continue the peaceful struggle. There is no reason to give
up our fight," said Lopez in a message read in a video posted online
from an undisclosed location by a party colleague who is also wanted
in connection with the unrest.
"They will never defeat those who refuse to give up."
Opposition leaders called for another march on Monday after bringing
thousands onto the streets on Sunday, despite the Carnival holiday
that usually draws Venezuelans to the beach.
Several thousand people gathered in the well-heeled Las Mercedes
district of Caracas and marched to the local office of the
Organization of American States.
Protesters in the wealthier east of the capital have clashed nearly
every day with National Guard troops in confused melees that
generally kick off in the early evening.
The demonstrators set up improvised barricades of debris and burning
trash that are usually cleared by the next day.
There are no signs that the unrest, which Maduro excoriates as a
U.S.-backed coup effort, could overthrow his government or force him
to resign, despite widespread discontent with soaring inflation and
DIPLOMATS AND MOVIE STARS
Venezuela's Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, who met on Monday with U.N.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva, said the protests were not
peaceful demonstrations but rather dangerous and vandalistic
disruptions of public order.
"Venezuela's people have been subjected to a continuous attack over
the last month that seeks to make the state look like a human rights
violator," Jaua said in a speech.
"They are trying to paint a picture of generalized chaos and
indiscriminate repression to justify a foreign intervention in our
The U.N. said in a statement that Ban expressed hope for reduced
tensions and the possibility for dialogue.
The continuing protests have helped motivate the opposition, and
even prompted solidarity from Hollywood stars including Jared Leto
and Kevin Spacey during Sunday's Academy Awards.
Anti-government street activism during 2002 helped briefly topple
socialist leader Hugo Chavez, who died a year ago from cancer, but
similar efforts afterwards failed miserably.
A two-month national strike launched that same year which included
marches almost every day ended up bolstering Chavez and weakening
Protests in 2004 that were nearly identical to those of today helped
the government paint its rivals as saboteurs willing to do anything
to seize power.
The current protests are facing both natural attrition and criticism
from within opposition ranks, especially the tactic of improvised
[to top of second column]
One recent video filmed in the central city of Valencia shows
opposition sympathizers in a well-to-do neighborhood attempting to
clear debris from a road, while exchanging insults with residents
who insist on restoring the barrier.
"How many diseases are produced by this?" asks one woman standing in
an ash-filled street blocked by wooden pallets and concrete rubble.
"If we're going to talk about politics, who voted for this? I
"What could be more of a dictatorship than what they're doing here?"
chimes in a second angry neighbor.
Another woman is seen bleeding from a slash in her forearm,
apparently after trying to move metal debris from the barricade.
Maduro sought to take the wind out of the demonstrations by
extending the four-day Carnival holiday to six days, though politics
has permeated many visits to the beach.
Opposition sympathizers filled social networks with pictures of
empty beaches, while state television broadcast footage of festive
revelry and traditional costume parades.
Mock tombstones and crosses were set up on a beach in the wealthy
eastern town of Lecheria. Local media said they were removed by the
pro-Maduro state government, then set up again by opposition
On Sunday night security forces clashed with protesters in Caracas'
posh Plaza Altamira, a frequent focus of rock-throwing rallies.
National Guard troops, seeking to dissuade the demonstrators, blared
Venezuelan folk music for several hours through loudspeakers mounted
on a truck.
Cybernauts at the same time lobbied movie stars on Twitter to speak
out about the situation at the Oscars, intermingling images of
teargas clouds rising from the plaza with shots of Hollywood actors
in black-tie garb on the red carpet.
The security response to protests has become the primary motivation
for demonstrators, overtaking complaints about Venezuela's ailing
Annual inflation reached 56 percent last year and the central bank's
index of product scarcity recently hit a record high, even though
the price of oil, the country's main export, has remained in a
comfortable range of $100 per barrel.
Maduro decries an "economic war" backed by Washington, but his
critics say the situation is the result of a failed system of
currency controls and nationalizations that have strangled the
private sector and left the economy dependent on dozens of bloated
(Additional reporting by Jorge Silva and Carlos Garcia Rawlins in
Caracas and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; editing by Daniel Wallis,
James Dalgleish and Meredith Mazzilli)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.