A failed mission to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro that was intercepted by Venezuelan security forces Sunday was reportedly carried out by a Florida-based security company under a $212 million contract by given by US-supported opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed that two US citizens were captured along with a group of “mercenaries” whom he accused of trying to infiltrate the Latin American nation in order to assassinate him.
Thirteen infiltrators were arrested after the attempted incursion, while eight men were shot dead in the interception. During a televised address on Monday, Maduro displayed what he said were passports and other identification of the two US citizens, named as Airan Berry and Luke Denman, who are now in custody.
“They were playing Rambo. They were playing hero,” Maduro said in the television broadcast. Venezuelan security forces were aware of the plot and were ready to meet the offenders, he said.
Jordan Goudreau, an American military veteran who heads a Florida-based security, Silvercorp USA, told several news outlets that the two men worked for his company.
Goudreau claimed that the two Americans were on a mission dubbed Operation Gideon, aimed at overthrowing Maduro on behalf of opposition figurehead Juan Guaido, who has denied the allegations.
Guaido is recognised as Venezuela's interim president by more than 50 countries. He was received by President Trump at the White House and feted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland during February this year. He had slipped out of the country in January in defiance of a travel ban by the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Guaido has since returned to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.
Images of documents detailing the $212 million contract have been published in social media, said to be the deal the opposition leader signed with Silvercorp to carry out the mission, Guaido denied that he had anything to do with the plot, but called on the Maduro government to respect “the human rights... of the people captured.”
Venezuela’s Interior Ministry first reported the attempted incursion on Sunday morning, when the group of infiltrators were intercepted as they made their way to the country’s shore on speedboats from Colombian territory. The ministry later published images of arms and equipment seized in the arrests, including machine guns, military rifles, and a large cache of ammunition.