January 13, 2019

This is VOA news. I'm David Byrd in Washington.

The next presidential election isn't until November of next year here in the United States, but Julián Castro, a 44-year-old Democrat from Texas, officially announced his presidential bid on Saturday.

As Julie Walker reports, Castro once served as President Obama's housing chief.

"I am a candidate for president of the United States of America."

Julián Castro, a grandson of a Mexican immigrant, made immigration a cornerstone of his presidential announcement in San Antonio, the town where he was once mayor, and the town lies less than 200 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

"There is a crisis today. It's a crisis of leadership. Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation."

Castro touted "pre-K" and healthcare for all and a Green New Deal. He says his first executive order as president would be to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord.

I'm Julie Walker.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expressing confidence that the United States and Turkey can work out a way to protect U.S.-allied Kurdish rebels in Syria even after American troops withdraw from the country.

As AP's Ben Thomas reports, Turkey considers some of those Kurds terrorists.

Just yesterday, Turkey's defense minister told troops stationed near the Syrian border that the government is determined to fight Kurdish militias it considers terrorists.

But following a conversation with Turkey's foreign minister, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is optimistic that an agreement can be reached that allows the Turks to defend their country against what he calls "legitimate terror threats" while leaving alone Kurds who fought alongside the U.S. against the Islamic State group and do not pose a threat to Turkey.

However, Pompeo describes such an agreement as a work in progress.

Ben Thomas, Washington

This is VOA news.

The runner-up in the Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential vote, Martin Fayulu, has filed a fraud complaint.

As Reuters correspondent Lucy Fielder reports, Fayulu says that he won by a landslide.

Fayulu says he won the December election by a landslide with more than 60 percent of the vote and that's what pre-election polls predicted, too.

Instead, victory was handed to opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi and there are fears the dispute could spark bloodshed.

This was supposed to be a peaceful democratic transition, the fist in the six decades since Democratic Republic of Congo became independent.

Now, many are asking if Tshisekedi struck a backroom deal with outgoing President Joseph Kabila.

Those suspicions were fueled on Saturday when Kabila's coalition won a majority in parliamentary elections, which will preserve his influence after he's gone.

Tshisekedi's camp denies any such pact.

Lucy Fielder of Reuters.

French authorities said two firefighters and a Spanish woman were killed and dozens of other people injured in a powerful explosion and fire apparently caused by a gas leak at a central Paris bakery.

AP's ??? reports.

Firefighters pulled injured victims from windows and evacuated residents as smoke billowed over Rue de Trevise in the 9th arrondissement of north-central Paris.

The Paris prosecutor's office said that two firefighters have been killed in the bakery blast, correcting the overall figure of four dead given earlier by France's interior minister.

Authorities said 10 people were in critical condition and 37 others less seriously injured.

They also said around 200 firefighters and police were involved in the operation.

I'm ???.

Some of those responding to the explosion found their way blocked by police facing off against yellow vest demonstrators.

As Reuters Francesca Lina reports, it was the ninth straight weekend of protests against French President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms.

At the Arc de Triomphe, riot police fired water cannon and tear gas at those protesting French President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms.

With the economy slowing and his administration shaken, Macron has agreed to start a three-month national debate on Tuesday. The four main themes under discussion - taxes, green energy, institutional reform and citizenship.

Macron hopes it will mollify his critics but the yellow vests consider the town hall debates pointless, given that Macron has already refused to back down on certain measures.

Francesca Lina of Reuters.

And a young Saudi woman, 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun who fled to Canada for fear of her life in her home country, arrived in Toronto on Saturday.

I'm David Byrd, VOA news.