Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says two American “mercenaries” have been apprehended after a failed coup attempt launched over the weekend.
The US State Department Tuesday evening called Maduro’s claim “a major disinformation campaign” that made it “difficult to separate facts from propaganda.”
The State Department was “making efforts to learn more,” including the activities of the US citizens “reportedly in the custody of the former regime,” according to a department spokesperson.
The State Department reiterated President Donald Trump’s denial of US involvement. The spokesperson said the department will look closely into the possible role of Maduro and “the very large Cuban intelligence apparatus in Venezuela.”
Earlier Tuesday, Trump told reporters outside the White House, before departing for an event in Arizona, that his administration had “nothing to do” with the incident.
Juan Guaido – the opposition leader who is recognized by the US and more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s interim president – on Tuesday also denied involvement during a virtual address to the National Assembly.
Guaido, who is National Assembly president, said during the parliamentary meeting that the opposition-controlled assembly had “nothing to do” with the incursion.
Maduro claimed two men who were captured had IDs for a US security company but Guaido said the assembly was not involved with any security firm. He called Maduro’s claims attempts to “trick and confuse” the Venezuelan people.
Maduro, in a live address on state television late Monday, brandished what he claimed were the US passports and driver’s licenses of the two men, along with what he said were their ID cards for Silvercorp, a Florida-based security services company.
Maduro also showed what he said was a photo of the two men after they were captured, and accused the pair of playing “Rambo” in a failed attack intended to unseat him.
Footage posted on Maduro’s official Twitter account shows several unidentifiable men in a boat with their hands in the air and a helicopter overhead. The men in the boat were not identifiable in one video, but a separate photo more clearly depicted two men who Maduro claimed were American.
Colombia’s Foreign Ministry strongly denied any involvement in a so-called “mercenary operation” after Maduro on Sunday and Monday accused that country’s president, Ivan Duque, of complicity in the failed invasion.
“These accusations try to hide the real problems the Venezuelan people face, following a usual strategy from this illegitimate regime to look for distractions abroad in times of domestic crisis,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement over the weekend.
The CEO of Silvercorp, Jordan Goudreau, told the Washington Post that two Americans acting within a larger force were captured Monday, along with six Venezuelans, after launching an operation to infiltrate Venezuela. Goudreau said other members of what he called “Operation Gideon” were captured or killed on Sunday.
Goudreau identified the Americans as Airan Berry and Luke Denman, whose names match those on the Silvercorp IDs displayed by Maduro. Goudreau, a former US Army Green Beret, said the two men were fellow former Special Forces members like himself.
Denman’s mother, Kay, said she is concerned for her son and has not heard from the US government.
“We are trying to get information and looking for what we need to do here on our side,” she told CNN. “No one has contacted myself or my husband.”
CNN has reached out to Silvercorp for comment but has not yet heard back.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Anisa Husain, Stefano Pozzebon and Jackie Castillo contributed to this report.