Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro foiled an overthrow bid his week led by two former US soldiers he says were paid for by opposition leader Juan Guaidó and backed by Washington. Reports said six to eight mercenaries were killed and at least a dozen others apprehended.
The White House and Guaidó have both denied any involvement in the 3 May raid, but Luke Denman, one of two US nationals held by Venezuelan security forces, confessed on state TV on 6 May to training a team in Colombia and launching a raid with the express aim of abducting Maduro.
“I was helping Venezuelans take back control of their country,” 34-year-old Denman said, adding that he and the other detained US national, Airan Berry, 41, had been contracted to lead the operation by Jordan Goudreau, a US military veteran who founded the Florida-based security firm Silvercorp USA.
The plan, as relayed in video confessions from Denman and Berry, appears to have been to enter Venezuela on fishing boats, take control of the capital, Caracas, seize the main airport, abduct Maduro, fly him out of the country, and bring down the regime.
Goudreau claimed he was contracted by Guaidó, who reneged on the deal, but the Venezuelan opposition leader said he had “no relationship” with the Canadian-born US war veteran “nor responsibility for any actions” related to the plot. However, a top aide to Guaidó reportedly admitted to signing a preliminary contract but said that it became null and void.
Guaidó, who last year was recognised as Venezuela’s rightful interim leader by most countries in the western hemisphere and Europe – and who led a failed April 2019 uprising against the president – accused Maduro of seeking to distract from recent unrest including a deadly prison riot and gang battles in the capital.
Maduro has presided over the exodus of some five million Venezuelans – almost one fifth of the population – since 2015, as the economy of the oil-rich nation has imploded, leading to skyrocketing inflation and mass unemployment. Particularly worrisome, against the backdrop of COVID-19, has been the disintegration of the country’s healthcare system and the re-emergence of preventable diseases.
– Andrew Gully