Detained American tells Venezuela state TV he plotted Maduro’s capture
Venezuelan state television broadcast on Wednesday a video of captured American Luke Denman, in which he said he was instructed to seize control of Caracas’s airport and bring in a plane to fly President Nicolas Maduro to the United States.
Venezuelan authorities on Monday arrested Denman, another US citizen, Airan Berry, and 11 other “terrorists” in what Maduro has called a failed plot coordinated with officials in Washington to enter the country via the Caribbean coast and oust him.
“Donald Trump is the direct chief of this invasion,” Maduro said in televised comments, after the video of Denman was broadcast.
U.S. President Donald Trump has denied involvement. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the U.S. government would use “every tool” to secure the Americans return, if they were being held in Venezuela.
Denman, 34, in the video from an undisclosed location, answered questions from a person off-camera speaking in English. Denman said his mission was to secure the airport and establish outer security, though it was unclear how they planned to get Maduro on a plane.
In March, the U.S. 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, an American military veteran who leads a Florida-based security company called Silvercorp USA, to train about 50 Venezuelans in Colombia in January for the operation. Goudreau supplied the group with equipment, Denman said.
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.
Maduro had originally said he would show videos of the two, but did not end up showing a video of Berry.
Denman said Silvercorp had signed a contract with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to seek Maduro’s removal. Guaido’s team, in a statement, said they had “no relationship with any company in the security and defense branch,” including Silvercorp.
In a state TV appearance, Maduro said that the two Americans arrested outside Caracas were “professional mercenaries” named Luke Denman and Airan Berry, who carried ID cards for a Florida-based security contractor called Silvercorp. Maduro equated their alleged efforts to overthrow his government to “playing Rambo” and “playing hero.” He did not mention, however, that the two were not very good at cosplaying the American tradition of violently overthrowing Latin American governments. Below are some of the less thought-through elements of the apparent coup attempt.
They tweeted about the raid while it was in process
It should go without saying that if you’re involved in an alleged attempt to overthrow a government already prepared for interference from a well-funded opposition leader, you should keep it offline. But Silvercorp, the private contractor employing the pair of mercenaries, tweeted about the operation on Sunday while it was still in motion:
There now deleted Twitter account showed the stupidity and arrogance of Silvercorp USA
Venezuela would seek the Goudreau’s extradition, Maduro said. Goudreau has confirmed his role in the operation, and could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.
#Venezuela coup attempt, Eight militants detained by members of the Venezuelan National Guard.— Labour Heartlands (@Labourheartland) May 6, 2020
Among the detainees are American mercenaries from private military Silvercorp USA, Luke Denman and Aaron Berr pic.twitter.com/F2EK3Gcfk0
Maduro said that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, via drug cartels, were the “operational and logistical part of this conspiracy.”
A DEA spokeswoman said the DEA had no involvement in the events.
After Denman’s televised statement, a U.S. State Department spokesman reiterated that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the incident. The official declined comment on Denman’s claims.
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