A demonstrator holds a placard as she stands in front of national guards during a protest near the Cuba's Embassy in Caracas. Picture: Jorge Silva

Caracas - Venezuela's attorney general on Friday formally charged jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez with inciting violence and other charges related to mass protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Lopez has been held in a military prison since his February 18 arrest in the midst of an opposition protest rally.

His supporters have called for a march later in the day to the main Caracas court complex to demand his release.

Attorney General Luis Ortega Diaz told a press conference, meanwhile, that formal charges were brought against Lopez accusing him of inciting violence, arson, damage to property and conspiracy.

The government had until Saturday Ä 45 days from Lopez's arrest Ä to bring the charges or release him.

The government action stems from Lopez's public support for the student-led street protests that have rocked the country since they began February 4 in the western city of San Cristobal.

He and certain other opposition leaders are advocates of a strategy dubbed “the exit,” aimed at pressuring Maduro to resign.

So far, 39 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces.

A Harvard-educated economist, Lopez is the leader of the Popular Will party and a former mayor.