Venezuela

White House Spokesman? FBI Agent? ‘Jim Luers’ keeps Venezuela media guessing

National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello gestures before addressing the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013.
National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello gestures before addressing the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. AP

Venezuela’s National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello — who has been hounded by allegations that he is under investigation for drug trafficking — has one enigmatic defender: Jim Luers.

In April, “White House Spokesman Jim Luers” was quoted by state-run VTV television and Quinto Día, a weekly political newspaper, as saying those allegations “were totally false.”

Ruling Party Deputy Earle Herrera hailed the news and chastised the local press for not covering the White House exoneration. As it turns out, there was good reason for the silence. The White House has confirmed to several outlets, including El Nuevo Herald, that Jim Luers has never had a job there.

Even so, Luers — at least the Quinto Día version of him — may have one of the most storied careers in the U.S. government.

Just five days before he was speaking on behalf of the White House, “agent” Jim Luers was quoted about Venezuelan officials squirreling money away in the United States. On March 20, he was quoted again, this time identified as a U.S. Treasury department investigator based in New York. Earlier that same month, he was cited as “an analyst for Dialogo Internacional.” And in 2013, Jim Luers made his debut appearance in Quinto Día as an FBI agent.

A person at Quinto Día said no one would be available to answer questions about their ubiquitous source (he’s appeared in at least 13 articles) until next week. Calls to the Treasury and the FBI went unanswered, but the agencies have confirmed to local press that a Jim Luers never worked there. Web searches for Dialogo Internacional were fruitless.

However, for many the case is clear cut.

“I think an elf in the newsroom helped invent Mr. Jim Luers who has now, nearing the end of his career, gotten the role of a lifetime as White House Spokesman,” wrote Mario Szichman in TalCual newspaper.

“Jim Luers, it’s pretty clear, just doesn’t exist,” wrote Caracas Chronicles, which has been following Luers’ sightings.

The Venezuela Conspiracy Theories Monitor website (tongue firmly in cheek) came out in defense of the spokesman.

“It’s with pleasure that I join in this campaign to prove the existence of Jim,” the site wrote. “In my view, the unequivocal proof of his existence is that the Venezuelan state’s most serious news media have cited him as a reliable source.”

Cabello’s name has been in the news recently after the Wall Street Journal and other outlets — citing anonymous officials — reported that he’s under investigation in the United States for drug trafficking. Cabello, who is considered one of the most powerful men in the country, has denied the allegations and said he will sue the Journal and the New York Times. He’s already suing local media that echoed a previous version of the story reported by Spain’s ABC newspaper.

Cabello can count on Luers’ support in that fight. On Wednesday, @realjimluers opened a Twitter account describing himself as a “White House Spokesman and FBI Agent for the Western Hemisphere. My interests include foreign policy, inter-American relations, satire and college basketball.”

In a linked WordPress site, “James K. Luers” provides an elaborate Moby-Dick themed explanation about why all the allegations against Cabello are false and then he signs off with a defense of his own role: “Here I am writing this letter, so I must exist.”

The Twitter account already has 908 followers.

El Nuevo Herald reporter Antonio Maria Delgado contributed to this report.

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