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Venezuela captures 39 ‘army deserters’ over botched plot

Venezuelan troops have arrested 39 army forces on the Colombian border, over a recent botched plot to kidnap President Nicolas Maduro.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said in a televised speech on Thursday that troops had “captured 39 deserters trying to enter by the Colombian border.”

He said the detainees were “part of the general scheme” to overthrow Maduro, but did not provide further details

In an incident earlier this month, a group of US-backed mercenaries tried to intrude into the northern state of La Guaira using high-speed boats, but Venezuelan authorities foiled the attack, which had been launched from Colombia.

They killed eight of the armed men and arrested two others.

Among the detainees are two former US troops, Luke Denman, and Airan Berry, who have been imprisoned and charged with “terrorism, conspiracy, illicit trafficking of weapons of war and (criminal) association.”

They could face 25 to 30 years in prison.

The others implicated in the case are Venezuelans.

Maduro said last week his government has evidence that US President Donald Trump “personally ordered” the military raid on his country.

He showed the US passports and other identification cards belonging to Berry and Denman, noting that they had been working with Jordan Goudreau, a military veteran who has already claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last week, Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab ordered the arrest of Jordan Goudreau, an American military veteran who leads the Florida-based security firm Silvercorp USA, who has already admitted that Berry and Denman were working with him in the operation.

Saab also called for the arrest of two US-based advisers to opposition figure Juan Guaido, Juan Jose Rendon and Sergio Vergara.

While Guaido had previously denied any involvement in the Florida-based security firm Silvercorp USA, a partial copy of the contract Goudreau says he signed with the opposition leader has circulated online, and the Washington Post has since obtained the full 41-page document from the opposition itself, clearly listing Guaido as the operation’s “Commander in Chief.”

Guaido’s signature doesn’t appear on the complete contract, however. He did apparently sign a shorter “service agreement” with Goudreau, which has also been leaked and published.

Guaido, propped up by the US, declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela in January last year and later launched an abortive coup with help from a small number of rogue soldiers. There was also an attempt at assassinating Maduro with a drone in 2018.

Washington has been openly calling for Maduro’s ouster, increasing pressure on Caracas in recent months by indicting the leftist leader as a “narco-trafficker” and offering a 15-million-dollar “reward” for his arrest.

Washington has also slapped harsh sanctions on Venezuela.

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