By Ken Bredemeier/Voice of America, edited by Diálogo May 03, 2019 “Military action is possible,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Fox Business Network. “If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do.” The top U.S. diplomat, however, reiterated that the U.S. would prefer a peaceful transition of power in Caracas from socialist President Nicolás Maduro to the self-declared interim president, Juan Guaidó, the president of the National Assembly who is recognized by the United States and about 50 other countries as the legitimate leader of the South American country. Pompeo’s signal that the U.S. could send troops to Venezuela drew a quick rebuke from Russia, a strong Maduro supporter. Moscow said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Pompeo in a phone call that further “aggressive steps” by the U.S. in Venezuela would be “fraught with the most serious consequences.” The Russian diplomat denounced what he said was the United States’ “interference” in Venezuela’s internal affairs, calling it “a gross violation of international law.” The U.S. State Department said Pompeo urged Moscow to end its involvement in Venezuela, telling Lavrov that Russian and Cuban actions there would destabilize it and could upend U.S.-Russian relations on a broader scale. Pompeo told interviewers that Maduro, in the face of street protests against his government, was prepared to leave Venezuela for Cuba on April 30, but that Russia convinced him to stay to fight Guaidó’s call for the Venezuelan military to join him in a push to overthrow Maduro. Maduro and the Russian Foreign Ministry denied the Maduro departure allegation, with Moscow saying the U.S. claim was part of its “information war” designed to demoralize the Venezuelan army and foment a coup. Guaidó called for massive May Day street protests May 1—“the biggest in the history of Venezuela”—against the Maduro government. Rock- and Molotov-cocktail throwing protesters and government security troops clashed April 30, with authorities firing live ammunition, water cannons and rubber bullets at the demonstrators, killing one and injuring dozens. Television footage showed one Venezuela National Guard vehicle running over demonstrators who were throwing rocks at the military. The government said one of its soldiers was hit by a bullet. Tear gas smoke wafted across streets in Caracas May 1, with armor-clad police carrying shields to stand defiantly against rock-throwing protesters. Maduro said he would lead his own May Day rally and claimed Guaidó’s attempted coup had been defeated. Maduro congratulated the armed forces for having “defeated this small group that intended to spread violence through putschist skirmishes.” “This will not go unpunished,” Maduro said in a television and radio broadcast. He said demonstrators will be prosecuted “for the serious crimes that have been committed against the constitution, the rule of law and the right to peace.” Thousands of demonstrators have joined the street protests after U.S.-backed Guaidó called for the military to reject Maduro’s rule and switch sides in a campaign he called “Operation Freedom.” Guaidó appeared April 30 alongside opposition politician Leopoldo López, who had been put under house arrest by Maduro, but said he had been “freed” by soldiers supporting Guaidó. López posted a picture of men in uniform on Twitter, with the message, “Venezuela: the definitive phase to end the usurpation, Operation Liberty, has begun.” Later, López and his family went to the Chilean embassy to seek refuge, then moved to the Spanish embassy. April 30 ended without any sign of defections within the military’s top ranks from Maduro to Guaidó. But Guaidó, the leader of the opposition-dominated National Assembly appeared undaunted in a video message posted on social media later in the day. Despite widespread food and medical shortages and a failing economy in Venezuela, the socialist Maduro regime has clung to power with the support of most of the country’s military. Venezuela’s two biggest creditors, Russia and China, also have continued to support Maduro. Meanwhile, the United States has imposed sanctions on Caracas in an effort to curb its international oil sales. Guaidó invoked the constitution to declare himself interim president in January after calling Maduro’s leadership illegitimate because of election fraud. In a related development, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an order late on April 30, banning all U.S. airlines from flying in Venezuela’s airspace below 7,000 meters until further notice, citing “increasing political instability and tensions.” The FAA also ordered all air operators in Venezuela, including private jets, to leave the country.
Florida is joining 29 other states that are part of an electronic network which is intended to maintain the integrity of voter rolls.According to elections officials, the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) could potentially help local election officials verify existing registration records and detect duplicate registrations to avoid issues at the polls.In making the announcement Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis said that he expects our state to join the program before the 2020 election.He also estimated that between 4 million to 5 million Floridians are not registered to vote. However, DeSantis emphasized that our state would be conducting outreach to register new voters only because it is an ERIC requirement, adding, “People spend big money trying to get voters registered. If it was just as easy to send them a postcard in the mail and fill it out, well, that would make it much easier. And typically you’ve [actually] got to do more outreach than that.”Florida, which currently has more than 13.4 million registered voters, would be the largest member of ERIC.The state’s entry to the program follows the release earlier this year of the Mueller Report, which alleged that Russians hacked electronic voter registration records in two Florida counties ahead of the 2016 election.
A Florida woman is facing a life-sentence after she killed a teen who she believed molested her daughter several years prior.43-year-old Connie Serbu was convicted Thursday for the 2016 murder of 18-year-old Xavier Sierra.According to the report, Serbu contacted the teen and asked him if he wanted to make money by assembling bunk beds.Serbu then met up the with teen and confronted him about allegations that her young daughter made about Sierra touching her inappropriately when the girl was about five-years-old and he was 12 or 13.Serbu and her brother, 29-year-old John Vargas armed with two stun guns, two handguns, an ice pick and a potato to silence the gun, then drove the teen to an undeveloped area near the Naples airport where he was then killed.Vargas was fatally wounded in a struggle for one of the guns as the teen attempted to escape. Serbu then fatally shot the teen in the chest.During a police interview, Serbu confessed to wanting to kill the teen because her daughter told a babysitter that Sierra inappropriately touched her.Serbu has been found guilty of second-degree murder and now faces a possible life sentence. Her next hearing is set for Jan. 3rd.It is unclear if the child’s allegations are true.