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Mother of Jailed Venezuelan Opposition Leader: Americans Need to Know 'People Are Suffering'

by Mariana Atencio /
In this photo taken Dec. 5, 2009, Leopoldo Lopez delivers a speech during the launch of his political organization "Popular Will" in Valencia, Venezuela.ASSOCIATED PRESS

Over the last 3 weeks, protests against the government of socialist president Nicolás Maduro have intensified in Venezuela. Authorities have confirmed five people have died in recent clashes.

Leopoldo Lopez remains one of the highest profile opposition figures in the country. He has been in jail since 2014.

RELATED: Venezuela Protests: Hospital Tear-Gassed, Chaos Ensues as Protests Intensify

Mr. Lopez’s mother, Antonieta Lopez, spoke Friday via Skype in an exclusive interview with NBC News.

Venezuela is facing a “humanitarian crisis," said Lopez. She stated that Venezuelans have a "constitutional right to protest - it’s the regime that has the arms."

Lopez said there is a "systematic violation of human rights."

On the streets, clashes with the authorities have increased as the country sees soaring inflation and widespread food shortages. Many in the once oil-rich nation are going hungry.

 In this photo taken Dec. 5, 2009, Leopoldo Lopez delivers a speech during the launch of his political organization "Popular Will" in Valencia, Venezuela. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, recently met with President Trump at the White House regarding her husband’s case. Trump tweeted a photo standing with Tintori, writing that Lopez should be allowed "out of prison immediately."

The opposition leader's mother said Venezuelans "need the American people to be by the Venezuelans - we need some kind of solidarity, that they know how people are suffering."

Lopez and her daughter-in-law were among a group who chained themselves to the Vatican in December to draw attention to what is taking place in the country.

In the U.S., several rallies and protests against the Venezuelan government are planned for Saturday in cities including New York, Washington D.C., Dallas, San Francisco and Miami.

Venezuela, a country of 30 million, is just a 3-hour flight away from South Florida and is still the third oil supplier to the United States.

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