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Venezuela president accuses 'Miami lobby' of extremism

CARACAS, Venezuela--Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Friday that South Florida politicians are leading the United States into an extremist foreign policy against his country and his foreign minister called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a murderer.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are leading a “Miami lobby” trying to influence U.S. President Barack Obama, Maduro said in a televised news conference Friday. Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen are co-sponsoring efforts in their respective chambers to impose sanctions on members of the Venezuelan government tied to human rights abuses.

“Obama can't let himself be taken by the Miami lobby,” Maduro said. “I call on the United States to take it easy. They're taking President Obama to an abyss and he's going to end up crashing.”

Anti-government street protests by Venezuelans fed up with violent crime, shortages of basic items such as flour and cooking oil and annual inflation that rose above 57 for the 12 months ending in February, have roiled Venezuela for more than a month. The Venezuelan government says at least 25 people have died in the turmoil since Feb. 12.

Daily street protests have rocked parts of the capital and other cities. After three people died in the central city of Valencia Wednesday, Maduro said he was stepping up security operations and called on the National Guard to begin searching buildings in areas where violence erupts.

Since the start of the protests, the government has accused the U.S. of trying to overthrow his government. Last month, Venezuela expelled three U.S. diplomats, accusing them of organizing students to participate in anti-government protests.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua echoed that theme Friday, singling out Kerry as a “murderer of the Venezuelan people.”

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Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a press conference in front of framed images of 19th century independence leader Simon Bolivar, at the Miraflores presidential ...

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