Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro announced on Monday that authorities had abducted two American citizens on charges of working with an alleged U.S. military veteran who claimed to carry out a failed coup against his socialist regime.
In an address on state television, Maduro brandished passports allegedly belonging to Airan Berry and Luke Denman, who he accused of playing “Rambo” in a failed attack intended to remove him from power.
“We have physical and material evidence that the group trained on Colombian territory,” he declared. “It has been stated that the adviser to the United States showed evidence of expedition to assault the country and kill me.”
He did not specify who the “adviser” to the American government was.
Informé al pueblo sobre la Operación Militar Negro Primero, “Aplastamiento del Enemigo”, que llevamos adelante en unión cívico–militar–policial para enfrentar las agresiones del imperio de EE.UU. y la oligarquía colombiana que pretende llenar de sangre nuestro suelo sagrado. pic.twitter.com/mz2wcqhJHZ
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) May 5, 2020
According to Maduro, the pair were working with Jordan Goudreau, a man claiming to be an American military veteran who runs the Florida-based security company Silvercorp USA. They were abducted on Monday alongside 11 other men, one day after eight men were killed and two others detained in an alleged failed speedboat incursion into Venezuelan territory.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Goudreau confirmed that the two men were part of a mission named Operation Gideon, where they hoped to “liberate” Venezuela from Maduro’s leadership, who has led the once-thriving South American country into one of the world’s most serious economic and humanitarian crises. He is now working to try and get his colleagues released from custody.
“I’ve tried to engage everybody I know at every level,” said Goudreau. “Nobody’s returning my calls, It’s a nightmare.”
Sources close to or within the Venezuelan security forces told Reuters that the two men were arrested and are currently in the custody of Venezuelan military intelligence.
“While the people are in quarantine and at peace, terrorists were planning an attacking against our country. I denounce this before the Non-Aligned Movement,” Maduro continued, in reference to the group of far-left governments opposed to the United States. “Venezuela is standing up defeating the pandemic and terrorism.”
President Maduro said Venezuela has detained two American citizens working with a U.S. military veteran allegedly involved in a plot to enter the South American country and oust him https://t.co/0ngHr7dQV6 pic.twitter.com/mm5nsiQLu7
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 5, 2020
Maduro went on to claim that the plotters were working on behalf of Colombia, the U.S. government, and the nation’s legitimate president, Juan Guaidó, as part of an attempt to oust him from office. Representatives for Guaidó insisted in a statement Monday that they “have no relationship with or responsibility for the actions of the company Silvercorp,” while demanding that the human rights of detainees were respected.
Responding to the incident on Tuesday, President Donald Trump insisted it has “nothing to do with our government.”
“We’ll find out,” he told reporters. “We just heard about it.”