Two American veterans were among 13 people captured in Venezuela on Monday in what Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro is describing as an operation to overthrow him.
Maduro posted pictures of the identification cards for the two captured Americans early on Tuesday morning and the Associated Press has identified them as Luke Denman and Airan Berry, both former U.S. special forces Green Berets. Maduro also connected the Americans with a security company called Silvercorp USA.
“Here are the photos of the credentials of the two Americans who confirm that they are part of the security of @realDonaldTrump and the Silvercorp company,” Maduro tweeted.
— Nicolás Maduro (@maduro_en) May 5, 2020
“The United States government is fully and completely involved in this defeated raid,” Maduro claimed.
On Monday, Florida-based ex-Green Beret Jordan Goudreau, who leads Silvercorp USA, said he was working with Denman and Berry.
“They’re working with me. Those are my guys,” Goudreau told Reuters by telephone.
According to the AP, Goudreau said he was working with a retired Venezuelan army general facing U.S. drug charges. The plan reportedly involved Silvercorp USA’s personnel training with dozens of deserters from Venezuela’s security forces at camps in neighboring Colombia, after which they would mount a cross-border raid to capture Maduro.
Maduro described the effort as being named Operation Gideon, and warned that the effort against him is ongoing.
“Attention. Venezuela. Operation Gideon against the country continues: 8 mercenaries captured in a coastal town. The organized people of that place captured them and handed them over to the Bolivarian national armed force,” Maduro tweeted.
RT @pvillegas_tlSUR: Attention. Venezuela. Operation Gideon against the country continues: 8 mercenaries captured in a coastal town. The organized people of that place captured them and handed them over to the Bolivarian national armed force. pic.twitter.com/y6kqcBLHQE
— Nicolás Maduro (@maduro_en) May 4, 2020
Maduro described Monday’s arrests as part of a larger invasion effort which was launched by speedboats from neighboring Colombia on Sunday.
“This is the moment when the mercenaries captured in Chuao surrendered, being surrounded by the Civic-Military-Police operation which stopped the terrorist incursion,” Maduro tweeted with video of one captured speedboat, surrounding by police boats and helicopters.
RT @OrlenysOV: This is the moment when the mercenaries captured in Chuao surrendered, being surrounded by the Civic-Military-Police operation which stopped the terrorist incursion. #4May. pic.twitter.com/8JZwjedAfp
— Nicolás Maduro (@maduro_en) May 5, 2020
The State Department has not responded to requests for comment from the Associated Press or Reuter. U.S. officials have strongly denied any U.S. government involvement in the incursions.
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has disputed Maduro’s claim to power, has also denied connection with Silvercorp USA and its efforts, and said he and his allies “have no relationship with or responsibility for the actions of the company Silvercorp.”
Guaidó did, however, call Maduro’s version of the Sunday events into question and suggested Maduro was attempting to distract from other problems in the country.
“There are obvious questions,” Guaidó tweeted, according to a translation. “Invasion by the sea and instead of appearing the High Command, the Navy, the FAES comes out? Whose corpse do they display and who murdered him? They arrive in Macuto, from Colombia? Why were the residents of the area warned that a drill was coming?”
Hay preguntas obvias:
¿Invasión por el mar y en lugar de aparecer el Alto Mando, la Armada, sale el FAES?
¿De quién es el cadáver que exhiben y quién lo asesinó?
Llegan a Macuto, ¿desde Colombia?
¿Por qué a los vecinos de la zona les advirtieron que venía un simulacro?
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) May 3, 2020
The U.S. and about 60 other countries support Guaidó’s claim as being the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. Maduro currently faces U.S. drug charges and the U.S. has increased calls in recent months for him to step down and negotiate his departure from power.