Caracas, May 6 (efe-epa).- One of the two US Army veterans captured trying to invade Venezuela at the behest of a Florida-based mercenary company said Wednesday that his mission was to secure control of the airport in Caracas and make it possible for President Nicolas Maduro to be put aboard a plane bound for the United States.
“The orders we had were to secure and take the airport to transfer President Nicolas Maduro,” Luke Denman told an off-camera questioner in a video.
Maduro showed portions of Denman’s statement during a virtual press conference from Miraflores Palace, where he was joined by Cabinet ministers and the Venezuelan military brass.
In the video, which was aired in its entirety on state television, Denman said that he joined the US Army in 2006 and served for five years.
It was through his military experience that Denman came to know Jordan Goudreau, a former sergeant in the US Special Forces who founded Silvercorp USA.
Denman said that Goudreau contacted him last December about an assignment for Silvercorp, which claims on its website to have provided security for one of US President Donald Trump’s rallies in 2018.
On Jan. 16, Denman told his interrogator, he and Airan Berry – another US Army veteran – flew to Colombia’s capital, Bogota, from where they traveled by car to Riohacha, a town in the northern province of La Guajira.
Waiting for them in Riohacha were between 50 and 60 deserters from the Venezuelan armed forces.
Denman, who expected to be paid anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 for his work on behalf of Silvercorp, said that he and Berry trained the Venezuelans in preparation for last weekend’s failed maritime incursion.
The weapons were provided by Silvercorp, according to Denman, who produced a copy of a $213 million contract signed by Goudreau, Miami-based Venezuelan political consultant J.J. Rendon and Juan Guaido, the opposition lawmaker who proclaimed himself Venezuela’s provisional president in January 2019.
Goudreau said following the botched invasion that while Guaido changed his mind and Silvercorp never got the promised money, he decided to go ahead with the plan.
Denman said that he took his orders from Goudreau.
When asked who commanded Goudreau, Denman replied: “President Donald Trump.”
Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have categorically denied any US involvement in the plot.
Eight of the would-be invaders were killed and 19 people, including Denman and Berry, are in custody.
Maduro said Wednesday that it will be up to Venezuela’s judiciary to decide whether Guaido should be arrested.
“Regarding Juan Guaido, that does not depend on my answer, that does depends on the organs of justice in Venezuela and it will be the Attorney General’s Office and the courts who determine if he should be arrested or not,” the leftist president said.
Guaido, recognized by the US and dozens of other countries as Venezuela’s legitimate president, has remained a free man even after leading a failed military uprising against Maduro a year ago and despite his having traveled abroad in defiance of a court order barring him from leaving the country.
One of Maduro’s closest collaborators, National Constituent Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello, said Tuesday that Guaido has already picked out the European embassy where he will seek refuge to avoid arrest.
Washington has a lot invested in its effort to push out Maduro, the designated successor of the late Hugo Chavez.