David Rivera comments to Local 10 about Venezuela dealings contradicted in 34-page indictment

MIAMI – Former congressman David Rivera spoke to Local 10 News earlier this year about the multi-million dollar deal involving Venezuela’s oil company at the center of his indictment and arrest.

“It had nothing to do with PDVSA, had nothing to do with the government of Venezuela,” he told Local 10 News in June.

Rivera was pre-contradicting federal agents’ account of a 2017 business deal at the center of his arrest Monday in Atlanta.

Rivera’s take? He was helping Venezuelan dissidents who worked in their country’s U.S. oil subsidiary.

“Citgo petroleum in 2017 approached me because members of the Venezuelan opposition talked to be about dissidents inside Citgo that were not happy with the way the company was being run by the government of Venezuela and came to me asking for suggestions, for consulting for counseling on how they can distance themselves on how they can separate themselves,” he said last June.

The new 34-page indictment unspools allegations Rivera and longtime friend and confidant Esther Nuhfer are unregistered foreign agents and money launderers.

According to the indictment, Rivera’s $50 million contract with Venezuela’s state oil company was for a secret back-channel to negotiate easing sanctions and normalizing relations for the Maduro regime with the Trump administration.

Code words and encrypted texts, including to a Florida senator, also come up in the indictment.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t named, but is open about his a longtime friendship with Rivera going back to the Florida Statehouse.

The indictment details meetings in Washington D.C. urging the senator to facilitate a solution, but reported back to the team the bus driver, code word for Maduro, would have to give guarantees for a democratic election, which Maduro ultimately did not.

Tuesday afternoon, Rubio’s spokesperson responded to inquiries from Local 10 News with the following statement:

“During a July 2017 meeting, Mr. Rivera told Senator Rubio that close Maduro associate Raul Gorrín wanted to personally deliver a letter from the dictator to the President outlining an agreement to hold free and fair elections and exit power. A few days later Gorrin came to a brief meeting in Washington, but produced no such letter and failed to even mention the possibility of any such deal.

“As the indictment explicitly indicates, Mr. Rivera and his associates “never disclosed to any of the United States officials who they met that they were lobbying on behalf of the Government of Venezuela.” And it lays out how Senator Rubio communicated directly what he has said publicly for over five years, that the only way sanctions should be lifted is if the regime agrees to free and fair elections. If, as is alleged, this was an effort to soften his stance on sanctions, it failed miserably.”

View the full indictment below:

About the Author:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."