WASHINGTON -- The White House said Friday it has information that individuals linked to Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro have incited violence at protests in the United States spurred by George Floyd's death.
U.S. Sen Rick Scott, R-Fla., also highlighted a similar report earlier in the week, promising Wednesday on Twitter that the U.S. government would crack down on any operatives tied to Latin American dictators who instigate conflict in Miami as part of the protests.
Neither offered proof of the allegations, and the White House declined to discuss "non-open source information" that had led to their assessment. Scott cited a Diario de las Americas news report linking back to a blog.
"We are aware of efforts by individuals linked to America's adversaries, including the illegitimate regime of Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, to instigate conflict, help incite violence, and divide Americans by exploiting peaceful protests," a senior Trump administration official told McClatchy and The Miami Herald, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the intelligence matter.
Asked for additional, non-public information to back up their claim, the senior administration official said, "We are unable to further discuss any non-open source information."
Publicly, there is little evidence to back up the claims. Miami and Miami-Dade police said they were unaware of the allegations. The FBI and U.S Attorney's office aren't commenting. The State Department said that any investigations into domestic protests are not within its purview.
And with the exception of Scott, South Florida's political leadership -- which typically denounces any attempt by Maduro allies to interfere in U.S. politics -- isn't saying anything.
"I think if someone has been arrested and detained, there's no reason why that information can't come out," said Frank Mora, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Western Hemisphere under former President Barack Obama. "Who are these people? Have they been indicted? How do we know that link?"
Mora said the government wouldn't be able to share intelligence or methods, but should be able to disclose if anyone arrested for inciting violence has direct ties to the Maduro regime.
"This administration is not shy about using this politically in the current environment," Mora said. "I'm not saying that's what's happening now but they certainly have done and used it in a cynical political way in the past."