Venezuela: former US soldiers jailed for failed coup

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Getty Images

Legend
Venezuelan military says it captured mercenaries after attempted coup


A Venezuelan court has sentenced two former US soldiers to 20 years in prison for trying to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro.

Luke Denman and Airan Berry were convicted of conspiracy, arms trafficking and terrorism.

The two men were among 13 people arrested in May as they tried to enter Venezuela by sea from Colombia.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab said proceedings would continue against others accused of participating in the raid.

In a tweet, Mr Saab shared images of vehicles, weapons and identity documents, and said the US “mercenaries” had “effectively admitted responsibility.”

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US President Donald Trump, a longtime opponent of Socialist President Maduro, has denied Venezuela’s accusations that he was behind the incident.

The United States supports opposition leader Juan Guaidó and recognizes him as the legitimate leader of the country.

What is the context?

Denman, 34, and Berry, 41, are former special forces soldiers who appeared in a video broadcast on Venezuelan national television earlier this year.

In the video, Denman appears to be confessing to his involvement in “Operation Gideon” – a plot to kill President Maduro or kidnap him and take him to the United States.

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EPA

Legend

President Nicolás Maduro (left) said Luke Denman and Airan Berry (right) plot was orchestrated by US President Donald Trump


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.

Denman said he and Berry were hired by a Florida-based security firm, Silvercorp USA, to carry out the operation. The company is led by Jordan Goudreau, a veteran of the US military who has openly admitted his involvement in the operation.

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

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó has denied having anything to do with Mr. Goudreau.

Relations between the United States and Venezuela are strained. Mr. Maduro accused America of manipulating the political opposition to steal the country’s vast oil wealth. America and Mr. Guaidó, meanwhile, blamed the president for Venezuela’s economic collapse.

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