Trump says alleged Venezuela plot 'nothing to do' with US govt

Washington (AFP) –


President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied US government involvement in what Venezuela's president says was an attempted overthrow in which two Americans were arrested.

"It has nothing to do with our government," Trump told reporters at the White House.

President Nicolas Maduro said that two US citizens were among those arrested after his forces foiled an "invasion" from the sea.

Maduro, in an appearance late Monday on Venezuelan state television, showed passports identifying the two as Luke Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41, who he claimed were members of Trump's security team.

Maduro accused Trump and Colombian President Ivan Duque of being behind the plot.

Venezuela's attorney general earlier claimed that opposition leader Juan Guaido had contracted "mercenaries for hire" using Venezuelan state oil company funds frozen in the United States.

Guaido, who the United States recognizes as Venezuela's legitimate acting president, denied the accusations in a statement.

The news that two Americans were arrested came a day after the government claimed it had foiled an attempted landing on Venezuela's northern coast by armed "mercenaries" seeking to overthrow the leftist government.

A top official, Diosdado Cabello, said eight people were killed and two arrested in that operation in a beach area near Caracas.

Maduro said another 13 people were arrested on Monday. At least some of those were detained in another area along the northern coast, according to Cabello.

It was unclear when or where Denman and Berry may have been arrested.

Maduro said they worked for a Florida-based private security company, Silvercorp USA, founded by a former Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau.

The government has sought to link Goudreau to Guaido.

Venezuelan attorney general Tarek William Saab showed a video in which Goudreau claims that an operation against Maduro is underway.

Saab also showed reporters an image that purported to be a contract signed by Guaido and Goudreau. In his statement, Guaido denied a relationship with any private security company.

Others arrested, according to the government, included the son of an imprisoned general, Raul Baduel, a onetime ally of the late Hugo Chavez, Maduro's predecessor.

An army captain who took part in an abortive uprising that Guaido led against Maduro in April 2017 also was arrested, according to the government.