2 Americans sentenced to 20 years in prison in Venezuela

CARACAS (AP) – A Venezuelan court sentenced two Americans to 20 years in prison for participating in a failed operation to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, prosecutors announced.

Former Green Berets Luke Denman and Airan Berry were convicted of crimes of conspiracy, association, illicit trafficking in war weapons and terrorism in the May 4 operation orchestrated by a third American soldier who remains in the United States this Friday for the night, the attorney general, Tarek William Saab, on his Twitter account.

“THEY ADMITTED THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO THE FACTS,” wrote Saab, adding that the case will continue for dozens of defendants. He gave no further details.

According to Saab, the two Americans admitted responsibility for the events that took place in early May, when a failed incursion into the coastal state of La Guaira was reported by a group of former defector officers and Venezuelan civilians.

Denman and Berry, who were associated with former Green Beret Jordan Goudreau – who assumed responsibility for the so-called Operation Guideón – were arrested on May 4 along with eight men in the coastal city of Chuao, in the state of Aragua.

66 people were arrested for the failed raid, the Attorney General’s Office said.

The scandal triggered by the operation hit opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who was pointed out by Goudreau for having signed, along with two former collaborators, advisor Juan José Rendón and opposition deputy Sergio Vergara, the deal for the raid.

The government-controlled prosecutor’s office requested the capture of Goudreau, Rendón and Vergara, who were said to be in the United States, and said he would request his extradition.

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Venezuela accused the governments of the United States and Colombia of being involved in the case, allegations rejected by both. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would use “all tools” to repatriate Denman and Berry.

The conviction of the two former Green Berets was announced a day after the trial began against six American executives from Citgo, a subsidiary of state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), who have been in detention for more than two years after being arrested in the nation on alleged corruption charges.

The lawsuit against executives Gustavo Cárdenas, Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell, José Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano and José Pereira, which was delayed several years, had a new sense of urgency coinciding with the recent meeting between former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and Maduro, in Caracas.

The six executives were accused of embezzlement as a result of an unsuccessful proposal to refinance about $ 4 billion in Citgo bonds, offering a 50% stake in the company as collateral. Five of them are Venezuelan-Americans, with deep roots in Texas and Louisiana, and one is a permanent resident in the United States.

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