Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Monday that two US citizens have been arrested among a group of “mercenaries” who carried out a failed raid in an attempt to arrest and expel the socialist leader.
During a nationwide broadcast on state television, Maduro held up two US passports and read the names and dates of birth of the two “professional US mercenaries,” who were arrested with approximately eight other people.
Video footage on state television showed prisoners surrendering their boat and later treated by the Venezuelan authorities.
Maduro blamed both the Trump administration and the country’s western neighbor for the plot. Both the United States and Colombia have denied involvement.
“The US government is fully and fully involved in this failed robbery,” said Maduro.
The two Americans were identified as ex-green berets Luke Denman and Airan Berry, who served Iraq and Afghanistan with former green beret Jordan Goudreau, who, according to Maduro, led the hindered operation from Florida. The operation is said to have captured Maduro and “liberated” Venezuela. Goudreau said he spoke to a lawyer in Venezuela and contacted the State Department to repatriate the two soldiers.
There has been no U.S. Embassy in Caracas since Venezuela and the United States broke diplomatic ties last year after the U.S. government recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido over Maduro as the country’s interim president.
Guaido has denied any connection to the group’s raid, called “Operation Gideon,” but called for human treatment of the prisoners.
“We demand that the human rights … of the people who have been imprisoned in recent hours be respected,” Guaido said in a statement.
The catch comes after a Venezuelan naval vessel repeatedly rammed a German cruise ship off the coast earlier this month. The German cruise ship underwent maintenance in international waters when the Venezuelan ship ordered it to change direction and started ramming it repeatedly. The Venezuelan ship was pierced and sank while the German cruise ship suffered only minor damage.