Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed that two US citizens were captured along with a group of “mercenaries” Caracas accused of trying to infiltrate the Latin American nation in order to assassinate him.
“Among those captured are the traitor Antonio Sequea and a citizen with the last name Baduel, who stated that two Americans from Donald Trump’s security team were in the raiding group,” Maduro’s office tweeted on Monday night, referring to the group of infiltrators.
Maduro did not specify what government agency the Americans may have worked for, though the remark carried by his office appeared to suggest that they may have served on US President Donald Trump’s security detail.
Thirteen alleged infiltrators were arrested after the attempted incursion, Caracas says, while eight men were shot dead in the showdown. During a televised address on Monday, the socialist leader displayed what he said were the passports and other identification of the two US citizens, named as Airan Berry and Luke Denman, who are now reportedly in custody.
“They were playing Rambo. They were playing hero,” Maduro said, adding that Venezuelan security forces were aware of the plot before it was carried out.
Jordan Goudreau, an American military veteran who heads up a security firm based in Florida, Silvercorp USA, told several news agencies that the two men worked for his company, noting to Reuters: “They’re working with me. Those are my guys.”
While the Associated Press reported that it could not verify Goudreau’s claims, the outlet cited him as saying the two Americans were on a mission dubbed Operation Gideon, aimed at overthrowing Maduro on behalf of opposition figurehead Juan Guaido.
Despite images of an alleged $212 million contract making the rounds online, said to be the deal the opposition leader signed with Silvercorp to carry out the mission, Guaido denied that he had anything to do with the plot, but called on the Maduro government to respect “the human rights… of the people captured.”
According to Drew White, a former business partner at Silvercorp, Goudreau was introduced to Trump’s longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller through a mutual acquaintance in private security, accompanying him to meet with Guaido’s representatives in Miami last May, the AP reported. While Schiller soon cut off contact with Goudreau, believing he was unfit to lead any mission in Venezuela, the veteran reportedly made his own contacts with military deserters inside the country and continued to plan operations.
Venezuela’s Interior Ministry first reported the attempted incursion on Sunday morning, when the group of infiltrators were intercepted as they made their way to the country’s shore on speedboats from Colombian territory. The ministry later published images of arms and equipment seized in the arrests, including machine guns, military rifles, and a large cache of ammunition.