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Venezuela accuses opposition leader of links to failed ‘invasion’

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Venezuela’s attorney general on Monday accused opposition leader Juan Guaido of contracting “mercenaries” to lead an “invasion” that the Nicolas Maduro regime claims to have thwarted.

The government had said Sunday that it foiled an attack from the sea aimed at toppling the socialist president, killing eight assailants and capturing two others.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab told reporters that “hired mercenaries” had signed a contract with Guaido worth $212 million dollars — money that he said had been “looted and stolen from state oil company PDVSA.”

The United States, one of more than 50 countries backing Guaido as Venezuela’s acting president as he challenges Maduro for power, has slapped sanctions on PDVSA and frozen accounts belonging to its US-based subsidiary Citgo, making those funds available to Guaido.

Saab claimed that Guaido had signed a contract alongside a former US special forces soldier linked in various press reports last week to an allegedly bungled attempt to topple Maduro.

Canadian-born former military medic Jordan Goudreau, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, is accused of training a mercenary force to invade Venezuela from Colombia that disbanded after Bogota authorities seized a weapons shipment meant for the group.

“We can see the signatures” of Guaido and Goudreau on the alleged contract, said Saab, an image of which was shared on social media by a Miami-based Venezuelan journalist named Patricia Poleo, who also published a video of her interviewing the former soldier.

Saab also shared a video of Goudreau, who now runs a private security firm called Silvercorp USA, in which the former soldier claims an operation against Maduro’s regime is ongoing.

Guaido’s press team released a statement on Monday denying the accusations and insisting it had no agreements with private security firms.

On Sunday, Venezuela’s government claimed a group originating from Colombia in fast boats tried to land before dawn in the northern coastal state of La Guaira but were intercepted by the military and special police units.

Diosdado Cabello, deputy leader of the ruling Socialist Party, claimed the operation was “orchestrated” by the United States and its Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), with support from its staunch South American ally, Colombia.

Bogota denied any involvement, while Maduro claimed on Monday that the mission’s aim was to assassinate him.

Venezuela frequently accuses Colombia of fomenting plots to overthrow the Maduro government and of allowing mercenaries to train in its territory.

Saab said authorities have detained 114 people and issued warrants for the capture of 92 others accused of involvement in plots against Maduro and his regime since an alleged assassination attempt using explosives-laden drones in 2018.

He added that Venezuela had seized arms during the apparent invasion that were stolen in April 2019 from parliament during a failed military uprising led by Guaido.

The public prosecutor has launched a number of investigations against Guaido but has never ordered his arrest. –Agence France-Presse

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