On May 5th, President Donald Trump denied any U.S. government involvement in a failed coup attempt in Venezuela that resulted in eight deaths and the capture of two American “mercenaries.” Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro said authorities detained two American citizens, Airan Berry, 41, and Luke Denman, 34, with their U.S. passports and other identification, according to Reuters. The two men are accused of working with Jordan Gourdreau, an American military veteran who has claimed responsibility for the operation. Authorities said they arrested 13 “terrorists” on May 4 involved in the “plot” coordinated with the U.S. government to enter the country through the Carribean in an effort to remove Maduro.
In early 2019, the United States and more than 60 other countries officially recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela. Maduro’s socialist government has led the country’s economy to collapse. The U.S. government believes Maduro rigged the country’s 2018 election.
Trump told White House reporters he had just learned of the incident. “But it has nothing to do with our government,” he said. The State Department accused the Venezuelan government of a “highly questionable representation of the details,” however, it did not clarify what details had been distorted. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States government “had nothing to do with what’s happened in Venezuela in the last few days.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “softented” this denial, however, in a statement made May 6, according to The Daily Beast. He told reporters there was “no U.S. government direct involvement.” Pompeo additionally said he was not yet prepared to share any more information about what took place regarding the origin of the money for the operation.
On one side, Venezuela claims the U.S. government was completely aware of the failed coup attempt. Venezuelan officials provided proof that American citizens were involved by providing the names and passport identifications of the two men arrested. Trump is attempting to cover up any knowledge of the plan because it failed and this could raise tension between the U.S. and Venezuela. Pompeo coming forward to soften these claims makes it look like the U.S. government knew more about the plot than Trump admitted.
On the other, some believe the coup attempt was orchestrated by men completely independent of the U.S. government. Maduro’s administration could be guilty of turning the story into propaganda. The U.S. government accused Venezuela of a “major disinformation campaign” that makes it difficult to “separate facts from propaganda,” according to NBCNews. The story could be a scheme by Maduro to distract from other problems in the country including a deadly prison riot and a major gang battle in the capital city of Caracas.
Whatever the involvement of the US government, it remains to be seen if the embattled President Maduro will be able to hold onto control.
What we want to know at Quibbl:
Will the U.S. government coordinate a coup attempt in an effor to oust Madurp by the end of the year? Vote here.
Will Nicholas Maduro resign by the end of August? Vote here.
Will the U.S. government admit to knowing more about the failed coup attempt in Venezuela by June? Vote here.