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Democratic senators demand answers on US involvement in foiled Venezuela plot

Bonnie Cash

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday called on Trump administration officials to share information about a foiled military operation against the ruling Venezuelan government that involved two American citizens.

Venezuelan authorities over the weekend released photos showing the arrest of two American citizens allegedly involved in an attempted coup against embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro that was launched by military defectors.

One of the Americans, Jordan Goudreau, is a former U.S. Army Green Beret and founder of the private security firm Silvercorp USA.

In a letter Thursday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, the senators demanded information on whether the U.S. provided any assistance to the foiled attack.

“Either the U.S. government was unaware of these planned operations, or was aware and allowed them to proceed. Both possibilities are problematic,” Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) wrote.

They demanded information on American policy toward Venezuela, saying support of a military operation is in violation of the VERDAD Act, signed into law in December, that states U.S. policy is to engage diplomatically to advance a negotiated solution to Venezuela’s political, economic and humanitarian crisis.

“Armed raids, even if they are carried out by independent actors, run counter to that policy,” the senators wrote. “Moreover, such incursions harm the prospects for a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela by insinuating that an armed intervention is a viable option to resolve the crisis, potentially undermining the willingness of hardline opposition actors to negotiate, while simultaneously allowing Maduro to rally support to his side, strengthening his hand.”

Pompeo has echoed statements by President Trump and senior administration officials that the U.S. government had no direct involvement in the operation.

“If we had been involved, it would have gone differently,” Pompeo said Wednesday in a briefing with reporters.

The secretary said he is prepared to release information at an appropriate time about “who bankrolled” the operation.

The U.S. considers Maduro’s leadership as illegitimate and backs the opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Pompeo in March unveiled a “pathway to democracy” for Venezuela for Maduro to step aside in favor of new, general elections.

Tags Chris Murphy Donald Trump Mike Pompeo Tim Kaine Tom Udall William Barr

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