Captured American says plan was to fly Maduro to US

Caracas: One of the two US Army veterans captured trying to invade Venezuela at the behest of a Florida-based mercenary company, said that his mission was to secure control of the airport in Caracas and make it possible for President Nicolas Maduro to be put aboard a plane bound for America.

“The orders we had were to secure and take the airport to transfer President Nicolas Maduro,” Luke Denman said on Wednesday in a video broadcast on state TV.

In the video, Denman said that he joined the US Army in 2006 and served for five years.

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It was through his military experience that Denman came to know Jordan Goudreau, a former sergeant in the US Special Forces who founded the Florida-based Silvercorp USA.

Denman said that Goudreau contacted him in December about an assignment for Silvercorp, which claims on its website to have provided security for one of US President Donald Trump’s rallies in 2018.

Denman, who expected to be paid anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 for his work on behalf of Silvercorp, said that he and Berry trained the Venezuelans in preparation for Sunday’s failed maritime incursion in the port of La Guaira, 30 km north of the capital Caracas.

The weapons were provided by Silvercorp, according to Denman, who produced a copy of a $213 million contract signed by Goudreau, Miami-based Venezuelan political consultant J.J. Rendon and Juan Guaido, the opposition lawmaker who proclaimed himself Venezuela’s interim president in January 2019.

Following the botched invasion, Goudreau said that while Guaido changed his mind and Silvercorp never got the promised money, he decided to go ahead with the plan.

Denman said that he took his orders from Goudreau. When asked who commanded Goudreau, Denman replied: “President Donald Trump.”

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have categorically denied any US involvement in the plot.

Eight of the would-be invaders were killed and 19 people, including Denman and former US Army veteran Airan Berry, are in custody.

In a statement earlier this week, Guaido’s team said they had “no relationship with any company in the security and defense branch.”

However, on Wednesday, Juan Jose Rendon, advisor to Guaido and member of his strategic committee, told CNN that he had signed a “exploratory” contract with Goudreau to seek the capture of several government officials and “deliver them to justice”.

Maduro said on Wednesday that it will be up to Venezuela’s judiciary to decide whether Guaido should be arrested.

“Regarding Juan Guaido, that does not depend on my answer, that does depends on the organs of justice in Venezuela and it will be the Attorney General’s Office and the courts who determine if he should be arrested or not,” the President said.

Guaido, recognized by the US and dozens of other countries as Venezuela’s legitimate president, has remained a free man even after leading a failed military uprising against Maduro a year ago and despite his having travelled abroad in defiance of a court order barring him from leaving the country.

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