The Venezuelan government says it's seeking to arrest 23 people – including several who live in South Florida – allegedly linked to an attack Aug. 6 on a military base in the northcentral state of Carabobo, a result of the continuing protests against the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
Gustavo González, head of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, declared in a televised appearance Sunday that “arrest orders have been issued for everyone involved” and displayed a placard with the names of nine Venezuelans said to be living abroad.
The placard includes Patricia Poleo, a Venezuelan journalist who was executive editor of the El Nuevo País newspaper and is known for her investigative work, including a book on the Venezuelan hideouts of former Peruvian intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos.
“I am used to being linked to every case,” said Poleo, who has lived in Miami for the past 12 years. She fled to the United States after she was accused in the murder of prosecutor Danilo Anderson on Nov. 18, 2004.
Poleo told el Nuevo Herald that the governments of Hugo Chávez and, later, Maduro tried her in absentia for publishing a video that showed Cubans in Venezuelan military bases. Her bodyguard was murdered, and her home was searched several times.
She said the government would like to see the political asylum she was granted by the U.S. government revoked.
Another alleged conspirator identified by the Venezuelan intelligence chief was retired Gen. Marcos Ferreira, who fled the country after supporting a 2002 coup attempt against then President Hugo Chávez.
Ferreira said the allegation that he was involved in the military base attack was “totally false.” He added that it is part of a campaign by Maduro's government to throw up a smokescreen and hide “a shameful event for the armed forces or for the armored brigade, which was captured easily by a captain and a handful of valiant men.”
The intelligence chief said the other Venezuelans in Miami involved in what he called “a terrorist attack” were Osman Delgado Tabosky and Navy Capt. José Gregorio Hernández. Also identified in the sign that González displayed were Nixon Moreno, Ricardo Rodríguez Mello, Roderick Navarro, Eduardo Bittar and William Ojeda.
The organization Politically Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile, known as VEPPEX, issued a statement flatly rejecting the allegations, branding them as “false” and “an attempt to bolster Nicolas Maduro's lies.”
“That's an old tactic that tries to blame those who live in Miami and leading exiles,” VEPPEX President José Antonio Colina told el Nuevo Herald. He said the group will urge Interpol to stop allowing itself to be used as a tool for persecuting opposition activists.
“What does this government do? It accuses somebody. Interpol issues a red [arrest] card and those people are practically locked into the country where they are at the time,” Colina said.
Colina's statements followed a Miami Herald story reporting that U.S. federal authorities have received intelligence information that a top Venezuelan official, Diosdado Cabello, might have ordered the assassination of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a critic of the Venezuelan regime.
Follow Johanna A. Álvarez on Twitter: @jalvarez8