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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Distances U.S. From Botched Venezuela Raid

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 5/6/2020 Paul D. Shinkman
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Video by AFP

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday distanced the Trump administration from what Venezuela has characterized as a coup attempt reportedly orchestrated by a former Green Beret, and he called into question Nicolas Maduro's claim to have two Americans in custody.

"There was no U.S. government direct involvement in this operation," Pompeo told reporters Wednesday morning at the State Department. "If we had been involved, it would have gone differently."

"As for who bankrolled it, we're not prepared to share any more information about what we know took place. We'll unpack that at the appropriate time, we'll share information that makes good sense," Pompeo said.

The secretary spoke days after bizarre reports emerged that at least two Americans led an amphibious raid into Venezuela from its northern coast over the weekend along with a ragtag group of exiled militants before they were detained almost immediately by local forces. They intended to capture Maduro and commence a protracted insurgent campaign against forces loyal to him.

Former Army Special Forces soldier Jordan Goudreau, who operates a private security firm in Florida, has claimed credit for orchestrating the raid, which he dubbed "Operation Gideon," and was reportedly working with a former Venezuelan army officer, Javier Nieto. The two have given interviews following the release of propaganda footage from the Maduro regime reportedly showing the captured militants.

The botched raid has drawn widespread comparisons to the notorious Bay of Pigs operations, a failed U.S. attempt in 1961 to overthrow the communist government in Cuba.

The Trump administration has made the ouster of the Maduro government and the elevation of opposition leader Juan Guaido a signature element of its Western Hemisphere policy, but officials have been quick to distance themselves from this latest operation. President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied any ties to the planners. Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon the same day, "The U.S. government had nothing to do with what has happened in Venezuela in the last few days."

When asked Wednesday about State Department efforts to recover the reportedly captured Americans, Pompeo demurred.

"We're going to work on this. It's a consular matter in the sense that any time there are Americans detained someplace, we'll work to get them back," Pompeo said.

Mike Pompeo in a suit standing in front of a screen: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the coronavirus during news conference at the State Department in Washington on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP) © (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo/AP) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the coronavirus during news conference at the State Department in Washington on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP)

"If, in fact, these are Americans that are there," he added, "we can figure out a path forward. We want to get every American back. If the Maduro regime decides to hold them, we'll use every tool to try to get them back. It's our responsibility to do so."

Venezuelan security forces said Monday they arrested eight people and two Americans following the botched beach invasion, and they had mobilized 25,000 troops to hunt for other rebels.

News of the raid has served as a likely welcome distraction for the Maduro regime as it continues to struggle with an economy in freefall, battered by international sanctions and a precipitous drop in the global price of oil – the principal source of Venezuela's revenues.

Copyright 2020 U.S. News & World Report

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