Former American soldiers jailed in Venezuela over failed coup

Former American soldiers jailed in Venezuela over failed coup
Venezuelan said it captured mercenaries after the attempted coup. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: A court in Venezuela has sentenced two former American soldiers to 20 years in jail for trying to overthrow the country’s President Nicolás Maduro.

Airan Berry and Luke Denman were found guilty of conspiracy, illicit trafficking of weapons and terrorism.

They were among 13 people arrested in May as they attempted to enter Venezuela by sea from Colombia.

Tarek William, the Attorney General of the country, said proceedings will continue against others accused of assisting the raid.

Mr Saab shared images of vehicles, weapons and identity documents in a tweet, and said the American “mercenaries” had “admitted their responsibility for the facts”.

US President Donald Trump has denied accusations by Venezuela that he was behind the incident. Mr Trump is long an opponent of socialist President Maduro,

The United States backs opposition leader Juan Guaidó and recognizes him as the country’s legitimate leader.

What is the background to this?

Berry, 41, and Denman, 34 are former special forces soldiers who appeared in video shown on Venezuelan state TV earlier this year.

Denman appears in the video to confess to his involvement in “Operation Gideon” – a plot to either kill President Nicolás Maduro or kidnap him and take him to the United States.

He explained that he was hired to train Venezuelans in Colombia before returning to Caracas and taking control of an airport to allow Mr Maduro to be taken out of the country.

Mr Maduro has often accused US President Donald Trump of trying to invade Venezuela and overthrow him, but earlier this week, Mr Trump denied any US involvement.

Denman said he and Berry were contracted by Silvercorp USA, a Florida-based security company, to carry out the operation. The firm is headed by Jordan Goudreau, an American military veteran who has openly admitted involvement in the operation.

The Washington Post has published a document which it says is a contract between the Venezuelan opposition and Silvercorp worth $213m (£170m) to invade Venezuela and overthrow President Maduro.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó denied having any involvement to do with Mr Goudreau.

Relations between Venezuela and the US are tense. Mr Maduro has accused America of manipulating political opposition to steal the country’s vast oil wealth. Meanwhile, America and Mr Guaidó, have blamed the president for Venezuela’s economic collapse.

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