Published: 11:17, May 6, 2020 | Updated: 03:10, June 6, 2023
Pentagon denies any role in Venezuelan 'incursion', echoing Trump
By Agencies

In this file photo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

WASHINGTON / CARACAS - The Pentagon added its voice to President Donald Trump’s denial on Tuesday of any involvement in what Venezuelan officials have called a failed armed incursion in the South American country.

“We’ll find out. We just heard about it,” Trump said when asked about the incident and the Americans’ arrests. “But it has nothing to do with our government.”

“The United States government had nothing to do with what’s happened in Venezuela in the last few days,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told a news briefing, even as he renewed criticism of socialist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro on Monday said authorities there had detained two US citizens working with a US military veteran who has claimed responsibility for a foiled operation.

“We’ll find out. We just heard about it,” Trump said when asked about the incident and the Americans’ arrests. “But it has nothing to do with our government.”

In a state television address, Maduro said authorities arrested 13 “terrorists” on Monday involved in what he described as a plot coordinated with Washington to enter the country via the Caribbean coast and oust him. Eight people were killed during the incursion attempt on Sunday, Venezuelan authorities said.

ALSO READ:Venezuela detains US citizens allegedly involved in incursion

While echoing Trump’s denial, the State Department accused the Maduro government of a “highly questionable representation of the details,” saying it did not accept the account at face value and was seeking more information. It did not specify, however, what it believed had been distorted.

Maduro showed what he said were the US passports and other identification belonging to Airan Berry, 41, and Luke Denman, 34. He said they were in custody and had been working with Jordan Goudreau, an American military veteran who leads a Florida-based security company called Silvercorp USA.

READ MORE: Venezuela govt says 8 killed in foiled mercenary 'incursion

Venezuela's Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the Venezuelan armed forces thwarted an attempt to unload mercenary groups onto the country's central coast, blaming the United States for the "provocations and attacks" in recent weeks.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said in a statement that several people were captured in the operation, including one individual who confessed to "being a veteran agent of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency."

The release said that "Venezuelan military deserters and a former member of the United States Army Special Forces have taken responsibility for this failed operation."

READ MORE: China urges US to stop interfering in Venezuela's affairs

Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said on Sunday that "Colombian terrorist mercenaries" were also involved in the maritime invasion. Colombia denied any part in the event later on Sunday.

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."