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Pompeo: US ‘will use every tool’ to free 2 former Green Berets captured in Venezuela

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo delivers remarks to the media, in the Press Briefing Room, at the Department of State on March 5, 2020. (State Department photo by Freddie Everett)
May 06, 2020

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. State Department would “use every tool” to recover a pair of U.S. veterans captured in a failed plot to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Luke Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41, both former U.S. Army Special Forces members, were the two Americans captured in the failed Venezuelan plot and were identified by photo IDs they had in their possession when they were captured by Venezuelan authorities. On Monday, Jordan Goudreau, the founder of the Florida-based private security firm Silvercorp USA and also a former Green Beret, claimed the two men were part of his firm’s effort to invade Venezuela and overthrow Maduro.

Pompeo addressed the allegations of a U.S. government involvement in the failed plot during a Wednesday State Department press briefing. Pompeo was asked if the State Department knew who initiated and bankrolled the operation.

“I think the Secretary of Defense said, or maybe it was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the President too, there was no U.S. Government direct involvement in this operation,” Pompeo replied. “If we had been involved, it would have gone differently.  As for who bankrolled it, we’re not prepared to share any more information about what we know took place. We’ll unpack that at an appropriate time. We’ll share that information that makes good sense.”

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Asked about what efforts may be taken to free Denman and Berry, Pompeo said “It’s a consular matter in the sense of any time there are Americans that are detained someplace, we’ll work to get them back. We will start the process of trying to figure a way if in fact these are Americans that are there, that we can figure a path forward.”

“We want to get every American back,” he added. “If the Maduro regime decides to hold them, we’ll use every tool that we have available to try and get them back. It’s our responsibility to do so.”

The failed plot hatched by Silvercorp USA reportedly included its members training Venezuelan military defectors at camps in neighboring Colombia. After amassing and training the force, the plan appeared to involve a cross border raid, carried out with speedboats, to capture Maduro.

The U.S. has sanctioned Venezuela in recent years and has sided with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s claim as the interim president of the country, in dispute with Maduro’s government.

Guaidó has also denied any connection with the effort to overthrow his political rival.

On Wednesday Venezuelan TV Channel 8 News tweeted a video of Denman being interviewed following his capture. Denman appears to describe seeing a document showing Goudreau and Guaidó signing off on the operation in Venezuela.

Maduro retweeted the video of Denman’s testimony.

Denman and Berry’s current statuses following their reported capture are not known at this time.