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Meet the Army Special Forces vets behind that botched coup attempt in Venezuela

Details have begun to emerge about the trio of U.S. military veterans purportedly behind an attempt to overthrow Venezuela's president, President Nicolas Maduro
Jared Keller Avatar

Details have begun to emerge about the trio of U.S. military veterans behind an alleged attempt to overthrow Venezuela’s president.

Army veterans Airan Berry and Luke Denman were arrested by Venezuelan authorities alongside 11 armed “mercenaries” on Monday amid a failed armed incursion into the country orchestrated by Jordan Goudreau, another Army vet and the head of security company Silvercorp USA.

All three of the men are former Army Special Forces personnel, according to service records obtained by Military Times.

Denman, 34, served on active duty as a special forces communications sergeant from 2006 to 2011, deploying to Iraq in 2010. He received an Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantryman Badge from the Army, according to Military Times. He later served in the Army Reserve until September 2014.

An Austin, Texas native, Denman’s family told the Austin-American in a statement that he left the military “to focus on family life” and was most recently working as a deep sea diver in Florida, where Silvercorp USA is based. 

Berry, 41, served as a special forces engineer sergeant from 1996 to 2013, according to Military Times, deploying to Iraq three times and receiving two Bronze Stars, among other decorations.

Few details are available on Berry, but public records indicate that he grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, before joining the military. According to Vice, his personal Instagram account suggested an interest with various far-right conspiracy theories.

Goudreau, the 43-year-old Silvercorp USA CEO who confirmed the firm’s role in organizing the coup attempt, served as a special forces medical sergeant and indirect fire infantryman from 2001 to 2016, according to Military Times, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan two times apiece and picking up three Bronze Stars in the process.

The Associated Press reports that Goudreau is currently under investigation for arms trafficking stemming from Silvercorp USA’s purported role in the incursion.

In a 10-minute edited interrogation video distributed by the Venezuelan government, Denman revealed new details of the incident, stating that he he had expected to receive between $50,000 and $100,000 for a job.

Denman and Berry were tasked with training former Venezuelan military personnel to participate in what Silvercorp USA called ‘Operation Gideon’ — apprehending President Nicolas Maduro and putting him on a plane to the U.S. — and to participate in the initial incursion by securing an airport.

“I was to meet Venezuelans in Colombia, train them and come with them to Venezuela to the city of Caracas and to secure the airport here, to use it,” Denman says in the video, stating that he trained about 60 insurgents in Colombia.

“The only instructions that I received from Jordan [Goudreau] was to ensure that we took control of the airport for safe passage for Maduro and receiving airplanes.” he said, adding that the job was “securing the sector, establishing our own security and establishing communications with the tower, bringing planes, one of which was to put Maduro on.”

While President Donald Trump denied that the United States had any direct role in the botched operation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed on Wednesday that the U.S. government would use “every tool” available to secure Denman and Berry’s release.

“There was no U.S. government direct involvement in this operation,” Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday. echoing Trump’s comments. “(If) we’d have been involved, it would have gone differently.”