Detained American in Venezuela Sought to Capture President Maduro
(May 6, 2020) — US citizen Luke Denman, arrested in Venezuela during a failed incursion, was broadcast on the nation’s state media detailing the plot, which boiled down to kidnapping President Maduro and shipping him to the United States.
Denman said the idea was for him and the other contractors, who work for Florida-based Silvercorp USA, was to seize control of Caracas international airport, and then capture President Maduro, spirit him into the airport, and fly him to the United States. He said there were about 50 people trained for this operation.
Though US officials have denied a direct role in the matter, the Trump Administration has sought to remove Maduro from power for well over a year, either diplomatically or via force. Silvercorp has suggested that they were paid by US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido for this plot, and this funding almost certainly would’ve come from the US.
Guaido has denied any ties to Silvercorp, and the State Department has vowed to do anything possible to secure the release of the American plotters inside Venezuela. With Denman openly admitting a plan to capture the president, it’s unlikely he’ll be released voluntarily.
Detained American Claims He Plotted Maduro’s Capture in Venezuela TV Statement
CARACAS (May 6, 2020) — A former US soldier captured in Venezuela said on Wednesday that he had been contracted by a Florida security firm to seize control of Caracas’ airport and bring in a plane to fly President Nicolas Maduro to the United States.
Venezuelan authorities on Monday arrested the man, Luke Denman, along with fellow US citizen Airan Berry and 11 others, in what Maduro has called a failed plot coordinated with Washington to oust him.
During questioning broadcast on state television, Denman said the firm, Silvercorp USA, had signed a contract with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to seek Maduro’s removal. A Guaido advisor told CNN on Wednesday that he had signed an exploratory agreement, but it had never been finalized and the opposition did not support the attempted incursion.
US President Donald Trump has denied involvement. A senior Trump administration official said Maduro’s accusations of a US role “are not credible” and the administration remained focused on “achieving a peaceful, democratic transition in Venezuela.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the US government would use “every tool” to secure the Americans’ return, if they were being held in Venezuela.
In the video, Denman, 34, answered questions from a person off-camera speaking in English
Denman, who looked calm and wore a gray t-shirt, said his mission was to secure the airport and establish outer security. He did not give details on how his group planned to get Maduro on a plane.
It was unclear when or where the video was made, and where Denman and Berry are being held.
In March, the US Department of Justice charged Maduro and a dozen other current and former Venezuelan officials with “narco-terrorism” and the Trump administration offered a reward of $15 million for information leading to his arrest.
“I was helping Venezuelans take back control of their country,” Denman, a former special operations forces member, said in the video.
Denman said he and Berry were contracted by Jordan Goudreau, a US military veteran who leads Silvercorp, to train 50 to 60 Venezuelans in Colombia in January for the operation. Goudreau supplied the group with equipment, Denman said.
Goudreau confirmed his role as organizer of the operation in media interviews on Sunday and told Reuters on Monday that Denman and Berry were “my guys.” He could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.
Venezuelan authorities said they arrested the group by the isolated coastal town of Chuao, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of Caracas’ airport, after locals raised suspicions. Authorities published photos of what they said was the group’s boat, loaded with ammunition, weapons and communication equipment.
Eight people involved in the same operation were killed on Sunday in La Guaira state, near Caracas, Maduro’s government said.
During a televised virtual press conference on Wednesday, Maduro originally said he would show videos of the two Americans, but did not end up showing a video of Berry. He said Venezuela would seek Goudreau’s extradition.
“Donald Trump is the direct chief of this invasion,” Maduro added.
Personal documents are shown by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro during a virtual news conference in Caracas, Venezuela May 6, 2020. (Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS)
Guaido’s team, in a statement earlier this week, said they had “no relationship with any company in the security and defense branch,” including Silvercorp.
But on Wednesday, Juan Rendon, a Guaido advisor and member of his strategic committee, told CNN that he had signed an “exploratory agreement” with Silvercorp to seek the capture of members of Maduro’s government “to deliver them to justice.”
Rendon said the preliminary agreement was never executed or completed and Goudreau sent the soldiers on a “botched suicide” mission without Guaido’s support.
After Denman’s televised statement, a US State Department spokesman said that “due to privacy considerations” it would have no further comment about the two Americans alleged to be in Venezuelan custody.
Pompeo Vows US Will Use ‘Every Tool’ to Rescue Americans From Failed Venezuela Attack
Pompeo Refuses to Share Further Information on Ties to Plot
(May 6, 2020) — US officials continue to try to distance themselves from the failed incursion into Venezuela, which led to the arrests of several people, including two Americans. Venezuela has blamed the US, while President Trump denied any knowledge of it.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is certainly adding to speculation that this is a US plot, saying that the US will “use every tool” to get the Americans back. He says this is a responsibility, but it only seems to be so if this was a foiled American plot.
Pompeo went on to add further to this speculation, saying that he will not share further information about who financed and drove the plot at this time. Further, the State Department accused Venezuela’s President Maduro of using this to deflect from trouble at home.
With those involved portraying this as a US-driven coup plot, the administration seems to be acting exactly how one would expect them to react if that was the case. The US has repeatedly tried to impose regime change in Venezuela, and this seems to be just the latest failed bid.
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