(NEW YORK POST) – President Trump said Tuesday the US government was not involved in a failed invasion of Venezuela that resulted in the arrest of two US special forces veterans.
“I just got information — nothing to do with our government,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I just got information on that. So, well, we’ll find out. We just heard about it. But whatever it is, we’ll let you know. But it has nothing to do with our government.”
Venezuela’s socialist strongman Nicolas Maduro held a pair of blue US passports at a press conference Monday and claimed the two Americans were acting out a failed “Rambo” assault supported by the US government.
“The United States government is fully and completely involved in this defeated raid,” Maduro alleged and jeered the apparent attempt to unseat him.
“They were playing Rambo, they were playing hero,” he said.
On Sunday, speedboats landed near the coastal city of La Guaira, reportedly in a bid to “liberate” the country. Eight alleged “mercenaries” reportedly were killed in the attack. Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab said 114 people have been arrested for participation in the attack and another 92 are being hunted.
The attack superficially resembles the CIA’s bungled 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow the socialist government of Fidel Castro in Cuba. US-trained Cuban exiles were rounded up instead, embarrassing the Kennedy administration. Within days, 118 US-backed men were dead and 1,200 captured.
In a later scandal, the Reagan administration in the 1980s secretly financed rebels fighting against the left-wing government of Nicaragua.
According to news reports, Luke Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41, are the Americans detained in Venezuela.
Ex-Green Beret Jordan Goudreau told the Associated Press that his company, Silvercorp USA, was involved in the attack, dubbed Operation Gideon. He claimed the goal was to detain Maduro and remove him from power.
Goudreau told the AP 60 of his men were still on the ground in Venezuela. He said he had signed a $213 million contract with US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, but that he wasn’t paid.
Denman’s mother, Kay Denman, said her son never spoke about Venezuela and that “the first time I heard Jordan Goudreau’s name was today.”
Last year Trump’s then-national security adviser John Bolton helped quarterback a failed uprising against Maduro. Bolton unsuccessfully urged senior members of Venezuela’s government to recognize Guaido as president.
The failure of Bolton’s Venezuela strategy frustrated Trump, who reportedly believed he was misled about how easy it would be to oust Maduro.
The US government recognizes Guaido as the country’s legal leader, but he holds no power. Maduro circumvented the elected opposition-held parliament that last year declared Guaido the nation’s interim leader amid a deep economic crisis. Guaido was a guest of Trump at the State of the Union address in February.