CARACAS: Venezuelan authorities have detained two US citizens working with a US military veteran who has claimed responsibility for a failed armed incursion into the oil producing country, President Nicolas Maduro said on Monday.
In a state television address, Maduro said authorities arrested 13 “terrorists” on Monday allegedly involved in a plot he said was coordinated with Washington to enter the South American country via the Caribbean coast and oust him.
Eight people were killed during the foiled incursion attempt on Sunday, Venezuelan authorities said.
Maduro showed what he said were the US passports and other identification cards belonging to Airan Berry and Luke Denman, who he said were in custody and had been working with Jordan Goudreau, an American military veteran who leads a Florida-based security company called Silvercorp USA.
“They were playing Rambo. They were playing hero,” Maduro said, adding that Venezuelan authorities had caught wind of the plot before its execution.
Goudreau, who identified himself as an organizer of the invasion on Sunday, told Reuters on Monday that Berry and Denman were also involved.
“They’re working with me. Those are my guys,” he said by telephone.
The State Department did not provide any immediate comment on the alleged arrests. US officials have strongly denied any US government involvement in the incursions.
A person familiar with the matter said the two US citizens were captured on Monday in a second-day roundup of accomplices and were believed to be in the custody of Venezuelan military intelligence.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the details came from contacts with Venezuelan security forces.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido cast doubt on the government’s version of Sunday’s events, insisting Maduro is seeking to distract from other problems in recent days including a deadly prison riot and a violent gang battle in Caracas.
Guaido’s communications team on Monday denied media reports that Guaido had hired Silvercorp to remove Maduro by force, adding the opposition leader and his allies “have no relationship with or responsibility for the actions of the company Silvercorp.”
In a statement on Monday evening, Guaido’s team said: “We demand the human rights ... of the people captured in recent hours be respected.”
Washington has imposed tough economic sanctions against Venezuela in an effort to oust Maduro, whom it accuses of having rigged elections in 2018. Maduro’s government says the United States wants to control Venezuela’s massive oil reserves.