Congress presses Trump for answers on botched Venezuela 'invasion'

Washington (AFP) –


The head of a US congressional committee said Tuesday he was asking President Donald Trump's administration for explanations over a mysterious botched "invasion" of Venezuela in which two Americans were arrested.

"Congress needs answers, and we need them now," said Eliot Engel, a Democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"We need to know if US laws were broken by American citizens and companies and whether any element of the US government was aware of what was taking place," he said on Twitter.

Referring to the television spy, Engel said the raid sounded like "a bad Jack Ryan episode" and complained that the State Department had ignored his request for a briefing.

President Nicolas Maduro, a leftist whom the United States has been seeking to oust for more than a year, last week announced the military had thwarted a beachfront invasion in which eight people allegedly died and showed the passports of two US citizens said to be arrested.

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly dismissed any US role in the episode, but the head of a private security firm in Florida said openly that his mercenaries were working on the ground in Venezuela to remove Maduro.

Two advisors to opposition leader Juan Guaido, recognized as interim president by the United States and some 60 other countries, on Monday resigned after being accused by Maduro of links to the mercenaries.

"We need information on each and every one of the private security contractors that held meetings in the US related to a potential raid in Venezuela, and we need to know if the Trump administration was aware of these interactions," Engel said.

While Democrats in Congress have clashed on a broad set of issues with Trump, they overwhelmingly oppose Maduro, whose 2018 re-election was widely seen as fraudulent and who oversees a crippled economy from which millions of people have fled.

"Anything that further delays a democratic transition is truly heartbreaking for the Venezuelan people," Engel said.