Tuesday, September 25, 2018
News Roundup

Court says two Venezuela opposition leaders sent back to prison

CARACAS, Venezuela — Two of Venezuela's leading opposition figures were seized at their homes by state security agents early Tuesday in the first moves by President Nicolas Maduro's government against prominent enemies since a widely denounced vote granting the ruling party nearly unlimited powers.

The Venezuelan Supreme Court said Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma had violated the terms of their house arrest by criticizing the government in messages released on social media in recent days.

The court, which is controlled by Maduro allies, also said it had received "reports from official intelligence sources" that the two men had been planning to flee.

Relatives and allies of Lopez and former Caracas Mayor Ledezma earlier reported on social media that both had been detained. Lopez's wife posted what appeared to be video of him being taken from their home after midnight.

"They've just taken Leopoldo from the house," Lilian Tintori tweeted. "We don't know where he is or where they're taking him."

Allies of Ledezma posted video of a man who appeared to be the opposition leader being taken by state security as a woman screams for help.

"They're taking Ledezma!" she cries. "It's a dictatorship!"

Attorney Juan Carlos Gutierrez said the government's decision to return Lopez to prison was "completely arbitrary" and said Lopez had obeyed the conditions imposed on his house arrest and had never had plans to flee.

Lopez had been released from the Ramo Verde military prison July 8 after serving three years of a 13-year sentence for inciting violence at opposition rallies. Many human rights groups considered him a political prisoner.

Ledezma was also detained in 2015 and has been under house arrest. Both leaders recently posted videos online denouncing Maduro's decision to hold a vote for a constitutional assembly with the power to overhaul Venezuela's political system.

The United States said it holds Maduro "personally responsible" for the health and safety of the two.

They were being "unjustly" held by the Venezuelan government after its "outrageous seizure of power through a sham election" over the weekend, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Maduro said Monday evening he had no intention of deviating from his plans to rewrite the constitution and go after a string of enemies, from independent Venezuelan news channels to gunmen he claimed were sent by neighboring Colombia to disrupt the vote as part of an international conspiracy led by the man he calls "Emperor Donald Trump."

"They don't intimidate me. The threats and sanctions of the empire don't intimidate me for a moment," Maduro said on national TV. "I don't listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever ... Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump."

Hours earlier, Washington added Maduro to a steadily growing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials targeted by financial sanctions, escalating a tactic that has so far failed to alter his socialist government's behavior. For now, the Trump administration has not delivered on threats to sanction Venezuela's oil industry, which could undermine Maduro's government but raise U.S. gas prices and deepen the humanitarian crisis here.

The sanctions came after electoral authorities said more than 8 million people voted Sunday to create the constitutional assembly — a turnout doubted by independent analysts while the election was labeled illegitimate by leaders across the Americans and Europe.

Venezuela's National Electoral Council said turnout in Sunday's vote was 41.53 percent, or 8,089,320 people. The result would mean the ruling party won more support than it had in any national election since 2013, despite a cratering economy, spiraling inflation, shortages of medicine and malnutrition. Opinion polls had said some 85 percent of Venezuelans disapproved of the constitutional assembly and similar numbers disapproved of Maduro's overall performance.

Opposition leaders estimated the real turnout at less than half the government's claim in a vote watched by government-allied observers but no internationally recognized poll monitors.

An exit poll based on surveys from 110 voting centers by New York investment bank Torino Capital and a Venezuela public opinion company estimated 3.6 million people voted, or about 18.5 percent of registered voters.

The constituent assembly will have the task of rewriting the country's constitution and will have powers above and beyond other state institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress.

Maduro has said the new assembly will begin to govern within a week. Among other measures, he said he would use the assembly's powers to bar opposition candidates from running in gubernatorial elections in December unless they sit with his party to negotiate an end to hostilities that have generated four months of protests that have killed at least 120 and wounded nearly 2,000.

Along with the U.S., the European Union and nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain and Britain criticized Sunday's vote. Maduro said he had received congratulations from the governments of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, among others.

Maduro called the constitutional assembly in May after a month of protests against his government, which has overseen Venezuela's descent into a devastating crisis during its four years in power. Due to plunging oil prices and widespread corruption and mismanagement, Venezuela's inflation and homicide rates are among the world's highest, and widespread shortages of food and medicine have citizens dying of preventable illnesses and rooting through trash to feed themselves.

Comments
The Daystarter: The FitzMagic is FitzGone as Bucs fall 30-27; businesses struggle to get Red Tide aid; DeSantis takes shots at media

The Daystarter: The FitzMagic is FitzGone as Bucs fall 30-27; businesses struggle to get Red Tide aid; DeSantis takes shots at media

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Expect a repeat today of yesterday’s weather pattern: Storms will start inland and push into the coat in the evening hours, according to the National Weather Service. There will be a ...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Scenes from Monday night’s game: Rally falls just short in Buc’s loss to Steelers

Scenes from Monday night’s game: Rally falls just short in Buc’s loss to Steelers

Fitzpatrick was intercepted on three consecutive passes in the first half to fall behind by 20 points.But the Bucs veteran quarterback rallied the Bucs to within a field goal with touchdown passes to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans in the second half.Unf...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers report card: There is still work to be done

Bucs-Steelers report card: There is still work to be done

TAMPA — They couldn't stick the landing. The FitzMagic ran out.Monday night against the Steelers, Tony Dungy night, was supposed to be the coming-out party, a new beginning, the Bucs on national TV, showing America that 2-0 was not make believe...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers: No wrong answer for Tampa Bay at quarterback

Bucs-Steelers: No wrong answer for Tampa Bay at quarterback

TAMPA — So this should be a fun week over at One Buc Place.Who's the quarterback?That question will be asked a few times this week.This question will be asked a few dozen times:Who should be the quarterback?The debate will rage on. We'll talk a...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers: Tony Dungy gave us more than wins

Bucs-Steelers: Tony Dungy gave us more than wins

TAMPA — Monday night belonged to Tony Dungy. The former Bucs coach was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor at halftime of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dungy's first NFL team.If it seemed strange that an NFL club would honor a ma...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays journal: Sound familiar? Yankees make Monday a ‘Bullpen Day’

Rays journal: Sound familiar? Yankees make Monday a ‘Bullpen Day’

ST. PETERSBURG — In an effort to line up their pitching staff for the postseason, the Yankees stole a page out of the Rays playbook Monday night. New York designated the game  a "bullpen day" and did it ever use its bullpen.RHP Jonathan Ho...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Playoffs gone but goals aren’t for Rays to finish season

Playoffs gone but goals aren’t for Rays to finish season

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' postseason hopes, as unlikely as they had seemed, officially ended with Monday's 4-1 loss to the Yankees, manager Kevin Cash speaking for many saying they should be proud of what they did.And that doesn't mean they do...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Struggling against Red Tide, a Redington Beach liquor store is too small to qualify for local aid

Struggling against Red Tide, a Redington Beach liquor store is too small to qualify for local aid

REDINGTON BEACH — Mark Wilson hasn’t had a customer for hours.As the only liquor store on his stretch of Pinellas County beaches, Wilson is used to a steady stream of tourists from the nearby condos and hotels. Other beachfront businesses affected by...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Hey kids, you really stink at this voting business

Hey kids, you really stink at this voting business

The public service announcement begins with an insult.This works on several levels for the audience of teenagers.It grabs their attention and makes them laugh. It also happens to be wickedly accurate, and it pretty much explains why Pasco Supervisor ...
Published: 09/25/18
Former Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie will try to reclaim office

Former Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie will try to reclaim office

TARPON SPRINGS — Former Mayor and City Commissioner David Archie will run for mayor again in the March election.Mayor Chris Alahouzos, elected mayor in 2016 when Archie was prevented by term limits from running again, said he is looking forwar...
Published: 09/25/18