A man accused of murdering and dismembering a woman in Caracas has become the poster boy for the latest Venezuelan government conspiracy theory: that Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are personally paying opposition members to destabilize the socialist regime. A report alleges the murderer has deep ties to the Venezuelan socialist regime.
José Rafael Pérez Venta, who has been arrested in relation to the discovery of the body of 53-year-old Liana Hergueta, is the star of a new video airing multiple times on Venezuelan television in which he claims he was deeply embedded in the anti-socialist Venezuelan resistance, and the Sen. Rubio, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, and Phil Laidlaw, an employee at the American embassy in Caracas paid for counter-revolutionary activity through a woman named Betti Grossi. He claims Laidlaw paid him personally $1,000.
Pérez Venta also accuses senior members of the Venezuelan resistance movement, including ousted legislator María Corina Machado and political prisoner Leopoldo López, of being involved in the conspiracy. On the American side, he claimed for good measure that actress María Conchita Alonso also had a hand in the scheme, as well as former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.
He does not specify what he was paid to do. A Twitter account baring his name prominently features images of the Venezuelan opposition leadership, though it is not confirmed whether he controls this account.
The video first aired on Venezuelan television on Tuesday. Venezuelan President and television host Nicolás Maduro claimed Pérez Venta was one of a large group of members of “30 groups trained and financed through Colombia, through Álvaro Uribe’s paramilitaries.” “This group, connected to the highest levels of Colombian right-wing leadership as well as the Venezuelan right, had plans to assassinate well-known political leaders.”
Venezuela’s second-in-command and accused drug lord Diosdado Cabello also aired the video on his TV show, where he accused all the Americans implicated of being “rotten perverts.”
Neither Pérez Venta in the video nor the government officials promoting it have connected Hergueta’s murder to the greater political scheme proposed.
On his television program, Cabello mentions a woman named Araminta González, who was arrested under terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to attack the Venezuelan socialist regime. He notes that “cooperating patriots” handed her over to authorities, without noting that Pérez Venta himself turned her in.
The Pan-American Post notes that a report from a Spanish outlet found that Pérez Venta and an accomplice robbed González while having convinced her to let them stay in her home. The latter report is from May 2015, long before Pérez Venta became a household name in Venezuela. The Post then did a background internet search on Pérez Venta, finding that his Twitter account posted pro-Chávez and pro-socialist propaganda long before switching sides (the account was opened in 2010) and that photos of him appear in official Armed Forces papers, suggesting he once served under military chief Cabello.
“Nicolas Maduro has said the late Hugo Chavez once visited him as a reincarnated bird, and it sounds like he’s having another similar episode,” Sen. Rubio said of the affair to The Miami Herald, adding that Maduro was “a corrupt clown.” Rep. Ros-Lehtinen called it a “distraction.”