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Woman Arrested For Smoking, Ranting On Plane Explains Herself

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A woman arrested for going on a rant and smoking a cigarette on an airplane isn't making any excuses for her actions that day.

Karen Bettez Halnon said late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is her hero and voiced her disapproval of what she calls "U.S. imperialism."

"The United States has declared war on Venezuela," Halnon can be heard saying in a YouTube clip captured on Saturday. "Venezuela has been declared a national security threat."

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She said she had just woken up after an American Airlines flight from Nicaragua to Miami.

"So you're aware the police are meeting the aircraft to take you out," a flight attendant can be heard saying.

Halnon responded, "I already know that so I'm gonna say my piece before I'm arrested."

Miami-Dade Police arrested Halnon.

After a brief stint in jail on a disorderly conduct charge, she returned home to Pennsylvania, where she spoke to CBS4 News' Lauren Pastrana by phone.

"I was speaking loudly, that's often interpreted as yelling when a woman speaks loudly," she said.

Halnon is an associate professor of sociology at Penn State University.

She says she had just returned from a work trip helping single mothers in Nicaragua.

"I felt it was necessary to speak for not only the Venezuelans but the rest of the poor of the world that are constant victims of US military global domination," she said.

Another clip from that same flight shows her lighting a cigarette, then putting it out in a can and stowing the can in the seat-back pocket in front of her.

Halnon doesn't deny the lighting up, even though smoking is banned on planes.

"Yes, that was me and I was actually smoking a cigarette briefly. I took a few puffs out of it and then I put it out and then I joked that the guy next to me made me do it, but that was just a joke," she said. "Every other revolutionary smokes. Fidel, Daniel Ortega, Tomas Borge, Che Guevara, etc. And so that's one of the significance... to identify with a revolutionary spirit."

Last week, President Obama issued an executive order declaring Venezuela a national security threat and called for sanctions against some of the country's top leaders.

Halnon says she fears military action could be next.

"Imperialism has to stop. And people have to use their voice. We have to act up. It's necessary," she said.

Halnon says she doesn't anticipate having to return to South Florida for any court appearances. She says she is still currently employed by Penn State.

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