Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday said that authorities have arrested two US citizens among a group of “mercenaries”, following an attempted maritime invasion.
In a televised address, Maduro said that two Americans, Airan Berry, 41, and Luke Denman, 34, were employees of a Florida-based security company called Silvercorp, whose owner has claimed responsibility for the invasion attempt.
The arrests came a day after the government said it foiled an “invasion” from the sea, killing eight assailants and capturing two others.
During the address, Maduro also showed their passports and other identification documents.
Attorney General Tarek William Saab earlier told reporters that “hired mercenaries” had signed a $212 million dollar contract with Guaido using funds “stolen” from state oil company PDVSA.
Saab said Guaido had signed a contract with former US special forces soldier Jordan Goudreau, linked in several press reports last week to an allegedly bungled attempt to topple Maduro.
The United States — one of more than 50 countries backing Guaido as Venezuela’s acting president as he challenges Maduro for power — has slapped sanctions on PDVSA and allowed Guaido to use funds from frozen accounts belonging to the firm’s Houston-based subsidiary Citgo.
In a statement on Monday, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry also noted that the operation “took place in the midst of a global pandemic, disregarding the call of the (UN) secretary-general for a cessation of hostilities in the world”.
On Sunday, Venezuela claimed a group traveling on speedboats and embarking from Colombia tried to land before dawn in the northern coastal state of La Guaira but were intercepted by the military and special police units.
Colombia denied any involvement, while Maduro claimed on Monday that the mission’s aim was to assassinate him.
Venezuela frequently accuses Colombia of fomenting plots to overthrow the Maduro government and of allowing mercenaries to train in its territory.
The public prosecutor has launched a number of investigations against Guaido but has never ordered his arrest.