WASHINGTON: Venezuela has charged two former US soldiers with "terrorism" and "conspiracy" for taking part in a failed invasion bid to topple President Nicolas Maduro, the attorney general said on Friday.
Luke Alexander Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41, were among 17 people captured by the Venezuelan military after an attempted invasion by mercenaries in the early hours of Sunday morning was thwarted.
Attorney General Tarek William Saab said they had been charged with "terrorism, conspiracy, illicit trafficking of weapons of war and (criminal) association," and could face 25-30 years in prison.
President Donald Trump on Friday said the United States was not behind a failed covert plot in Venezuela allegedly involving two Americans, but that if he did order an attack it would be an open “invasion.”
“If I wanted to go into Venezuela I wouldn’t make a secret about it,” he told Fox News.
“I’d go in and they would do nothing about it. They would roll over. I wouldn’t send a small little group. No, no, no. It would be called an army,” he said. “It would be called an invasion.”
Leftist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government says the apparently botched plot was funded by US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido and that two former US special forces soldiers were among 17 people taken prisoner.
Another eight alleged attackers were killed in a shootout, the government says.
Maduro has said the two Americans have “confessed their guilt.”
Trump called the covert operatives “a rogue group” and said “I don’t know too much about it.”
“It wasn’t led by General George Washington, obviously,” he said mockingly. “This was not a good attack. I think they were caught before they ever hit land.”