In a live address on Monday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says two American “mercenaries” have been apprehended after a failed coup attempt launched over the weekend.
Maduro showed US passports and drivers licenses of the two men along with ID cards for Silvercorp, a Florida-based security services company.
Previously-released video showed several men in a boat with their hands in the air as a Venezuelan helicopter hovered overhead.
Jordan Goudreau, CEO of Silvercorp, confirmed to the Washington Post that two Americans had been captured along with six Venezuelans, believed to be defectors from the Venezuelan military, and around 50 other men, during an operation called “Operation Gideon”. According to Goudreau, the operation’s intent was to infiltrate Venezuela, incite rebellion, and apprehend its leaders.
Goudreau identified the Americans as Airan Berry and Luke Denman, both former Special Forces members.
Reports indicate eight people were killed during the operation.
The Washington Post reported, “Goudreau said the Americans, along with six former Venezuela military men, spent Sunday night at sea. They were running out of gas, and Goudreau was trying to secure a vessel out of Aruba to “extract” them, he said. He said he last spoke to the crew around noon on Monday before learning of their capture.”
Maduro dispatched a reported 25,000 reservists to the coast in response to the attack. He suggested the operation failed because it had been infiltrated. “We knew everything. What they ate, what they didn’t eat. What they drank. Who financed them. We know that the U.S. government delegated this as a DEA operation.”
U.S. officials, who have indicted Maduro on narcoterrorism charges, offered a $15 million bounty for information leading to his capture or conviction
Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader, is recognized by the US and more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s interim president. He also denied any connection to Silvercorp.
Goudreau says he is working with the State Department to secure the release of the captured Americans.