Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said two Americans were among so-called “mercenary terrorists” who carried out a failed armed invasion of his country earlier this week.
Maduro went on state television Tuesday and showed the passports he claimed belonged to Airan Berry and Luke Denman, who were among 13 men captured in the failed raid that took place Sunday.
Maduro accused Berry and Denman of working for Jordan Goudreau, a U.S. military veteran who runs a private Florida-based security firm called Silvercorp USA. Both Berry and Denman are former U.S. Special Forces soldiers, also known as Green Berets.
Venezuelan military officials said the attackers were put down and caught as they attempted to sail into the port city of La Guaira from neighboring Colombia. Eight people were killed in the foiled attack. Photos of a group of men lying face down on the ground with their hands tied behind their back was televised Monday in Venezuela.
Goudreau has acknowledged organizing the operation in a video released on social media. Goudreau has also acknowledged Berry and Denman as being part of the operation, describing the pair as “my guys” in a telephone interview with the Reuters news agency.
Nevertheless, U.S. President Donald Trump denied the U.S. government was involved in the failed operation.
“We'll find out. We just heard about it,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question about the armed invasion and the Americans' arrests. “But it has nothing to do with our government.”
The Pentagon also denied involvement.
"The United States government had nothing to do with what's happened in Venezuela in the last few days," Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters Tuesday.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is denying accusations leveled by Maduro’s government that he hired Silvercorp to carry out the attack.
Maduro’s administration frequently accuses political adversaries of trying to overthrow his government. Critics have dismissed the accusations as an excuse to detain Maduro’s opponents.
Maduro has overseen a six-year economic crisis in Venezuela. More than 50 countries, including the United States, have indicated their support for opposition leader Guaido after a disputed election in 2018, but Maduro maintains control of Venezuela’s military. U.S. sanctions are in place against Venezuela.
VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.