The United States denied involvement and alleged propaganda by left-wing Venezuela on Tuesday after two Americans were allegedly arrested after a mysterious, deadly invasion at sea.
President Nicolas Maduro, who has been unsuccessfully attempting to topple the United States for more than a year, appeared on state television on Monday with the US passports of a couple he said belonged to the US security forces.
While the footage came directly from the disastrous Bay of Pigs Bay invasion of Cuba by the CIA in 1961, President Donald Trump’s government mocked involvement in such a seemingly clumsy operation.
“It has nothing to do with our government,” Trump told reporters, comments echoed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper shortly after.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman accused Maduro of devising a “melodrama”, possibly with the help of Cuban intelligence, in an attempt to divert their problems into crisis-hit Venezuela.
“A major disinformation campaign is underway by the Maduro regime, making it difficult to separate facts from propaganda,” said the spokesman.
“The account of untruths and manipulation by Maduro and his henchmen, as well as their highly questionable representation of the details, states that nothing should be taken at first glance when we see the distortion of the facts.”
Associate mercenaries with Trump
Maduro linked the alleged plot to Juan Guaido – the opposition leader considered interim president by the United States and some 60 other countries – and President Ivan Duque, right-wing president of neighboring Colombia.
The passports shown by Maduro identified the arrested Americans as Luke Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41.
The State Department, which routinely demands the release of Americans arrested abroad, just said it was looking at their activities.
It also said it wanted to learn more about Canadian-born Jordan Goudreau, a former U.S. special-forces soldier who founded a Florida-based private security company, Silvercorp USA, and has openly said the company is working to oust Maduro.
In response to Trump’s denial, Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez showed a picture of Goudreau alongside Trump.
He said the photo was taken on October 18, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina and appeared on Goudreau’s Instagram account. AFP was unable to find the photo when looking through the account, @silvercorpusa.
Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab previously shared a video on social media in which Goudreau said an operation against Maduro was underway with mercenaries.
Saab also showed a contract stating that Silvercorp USA had a $ 212 million deal with Guaido using funds “stolen” from the state oil company PDVSA – whose US subsidiary Citgo was under the control of the opposition leader.
Guaido’s press team has released a statement denying the allegations, insisting that it has no agreements with private security companies.
Years of intrigue
It was unclear when and where the Americans were arrested.
A day before the news of the arrest of the Americans, Venezuelan authorities said they had attempted to land mercenaries on a beach near the capital, Caracas.
A top official, Diosdado Cabello, said eight people were killed and two were arrested.
Maduro said another 13 people were arrested Monday, including the son of a prominent imprisoned general.
The intrigues come almost a year to the day after Guaido led a failed uprising aimed at seizing power, with some Venezuelans taking to the streets, but the military remained loyal to Maduro.
The United States has a long history of intervention in Venezuela, whose left-wing leaders are quick to claim American conspiracies.
In 2002, Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor, was briefly removed from office during a coup. Declassified documents later showed that then President George W. Bush was aware of the coup plan, although he did not necessarily support it.
After Guaido’s failed uprising, US officials said they had encouraged Venezuelans to attack Maduro.
Millions have fled from the battered economy of Venezuela, where basic needs and services have become scarce.
The crisis shows no signs of easing, with a recent riot in prison killing at least 47 people.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil exports and on Maduro and other top officials, but it still enjoys support from Russia and China.
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