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TEXAS ROUNDUP: Vice President Pence to give Venezuela speech in Houston

HOUSTON — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will visit Houston next week to give a speech on the political turmoil and economic crisis in Venezuela.

The White House says in a statement that Pence will address students and members of the local Venezuelan community at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy on Friday, April 5.

Pence’s visit comes as the political fight in Venezuela is intensifying. The government of President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday that it barred opposition leader Juan Guaido from holding public office for 15 years.

Houston is home to a large Venezuelan immigrant community, as well as the corporate headquarters of CITGO. Six executives with the oil company are jailed in Venezuela on what their families say are trumped-up corruption charges.


Beto O’Rourke hires Iowa caucus architect as state tactician

DES MOINES, Iowa — A former Iowa Democratic Party official is facing criticism for jumping to Beto O’Rourke’s campaign — and bringing with him inside information that O’Rourke’s rivals for the White House say could give the former Texas congressman an advantage on caucus night.

Before joining O’Rourke’s campaign this month as a senior Iowa strategist, Norm Sterzenbach worked for the state Democratic Party to develop and implement some of the biggest changes to the nation’s leadoff caucus in 50 years. Those changes include a mandate from the Democratic National Committee to hold a “virtual caucus” that, for the first time, would allow people to participate by telephone.

Party officials were blindsided by his decision to join the O’Rourke campaign, and some Iowa Democrats are arguing that Sterzenbach is conflicted. Former Rep. David Nagle, who led a team of more than two dozen Democratic activists and operatives in reviewing the caucuses after the 2016 election, said Sterzenbach had been involved in that process from start to finish. He said he and other party operatives were “very uncomfortable” that Sterzenbach joined a campaign.

“We almost feel like it’s an act of betrayal,” he said. “To design a system, and then the week you’re giving your final advice to the party you go and join a presidential campaign and don’t tell anybody?”