A former U.S. soldier captured in Venezuela said on Wednesday that he had been contracted by a Florida security firm to seize control of Caracas’ airport and bring in a plane to fly President Nicolas Maduro to the United States, Reuters informed.
Venezuelan authorities on Monday arrested the man, Luke Denman, along with fellow U.S. citizen Airan Berry and 11 others, in what Maduro has called a failed plot coordinated with Washington to oust him.
During questioning broadcast on state television, Denman said the firm, Silvercorp USA, had signed a contract with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to seek Maduro’s removal. A Guaido advisor told CNN on Wednesday that he had signed an exploratory agreement, but it had never been finalized and the opposition did not support the attempted incursion.
U.S. President Donald Trump has denied involvement. A senior Trump administration official said Maduro’s accusations of a U.S. role “are not credible” and the administration remained focused on “achieving a peaceful, democratic transition in Venezuela.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the U.S. government would use “every tool” to secure the Americans’ return, if they were being held in Venezuela.
In the video, Denman, 34, answered questions from a person off-camera speaking in English.
Denman, who looked calm and wore a gray t-shirt, said his mission was to secure the airport and establish outer security. He did not give details on how his group planned to get Maduro on a plane, Reuters adds.
In March, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Maduro and a dozen other current and former Venezuelan officials with “narco-terrorism” and the Trump administration offered a reward of $15 million for information leading to his arrest.