World Ex-Green Berets Jailed in Venezuela Were Trying to Go Home, Not Part of Coup, Negotiator Suggests
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BANGKOK (AP) — After Myanmar’s military seized power by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, they couldn’t even make the trains run on time: State railway workers were among the earliest organized opponents of the February takeover, and they went on strike. Health workers who founded the civil disobedience movement against military rule stopped staffing government medical facilities. Many civil servants were no-shows at work, along with employees of government and private banks.
Two ex-Green Berets being held in prison in Venezuela for suspected involvement in the failed coup of 2020, may have thought they were heading back home to America, according to their negotiator, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.
Richardson says that Luke Denman and Airan Berry, the two American citizens and ex-Green Berets that were hired by Florida security firm Silvercorp USA to train Venezuelans in 2020 did not intend to be part of the botched invasion, and likely, did not understand quite what was happening when they crossed the border into Venezuela, according to the Miami Herald.
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"The Green Berets are innocent of the crimes they are charged with. They were not mercenaries, they were not part of an invasion," said Richardson, who is working with the two Americans' families. "They were training Venezuelans, no question, on the border," Richardson admitted.
"But they were under contract to train Venezuelans in Colombia," he said. "They never intended to cross the border themselves. They were not part of any invasion. They both ended up in Venezuela, maybe somebody sold them out."
Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to thewith a long and successful track record for winning the release of captives through his non-profit Richardson Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, had more ideas of how to show they did not intend to participate in a coup when they crossed the border.
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Sunland Park has seen an influx in injuries as migrants attempt to cross the border.Sunland Park, New Mexico, sits on the border of El Paso, Texas, and the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The border wall was built by a private organization and stretches across a half-mile of land between Mexico and the town.
"They arrived in Venezuela with their passports, in shorts and sandals. That's not what Green Berets would wear for an invasion. More likely, they thought they were leaving Colombia to go back home. They also believed their contract to train Venezuelans was approved by the U.S. government," Richardson said.
Denman and Berry's contracts to train Venezuelans were with an American company. And their contracts were approved by Juan Guaidó, the controversial Venezuelan political leader many nations, including the Trump administration, considered to be the legitimate President of Venezuela.
The Miami Herald reported that detailed information could not be nailed down regarding how exactly Denman and Berry arrived in Columbia and then later found themselves on boats along with an armed insurrection into Venezuela in May of 2020.
Richardson remains adamant that the two men are not guilty.
Malian army detains leaders, triggering condemnation, coup fears
Malian officers upset with a government reshuffle have detained the president and prime minister at an army camp outside the capital, triggering broad international condemnation and demands for their immediate release. Coup leader Assimi Goita was appointed as vice president of the caretaker administration, and the interim president, Bah Ndaw, is a retired army officer. Many have doubted whether the military-dominated government has the will, or the ability, to stage reforms on a short timescale.Among other problems, the vast nation faces a major logistical and security challenge, as swathes of territory are in the hands of jihadists.
"They are innocent of the crimes they are accused of, so using the term mercenaries is not correct. It would be a good thing to find a way to get them back home to their families," he said. Richardson is working on small steps for his clients with the Maduro government, such as seeking house arrest instead of prison.
Newsweek reached out to the Bill Richardson Center and will update this story with any response.
Exclusive: U.S. monitoring Iranian warships that may be headed to Venezuela .
Tehran's intent in sending the vessels in the direction of the Western Hemisphere remains a mystery, as does their cargo.An Iranian frigate and the Makran, a former oil tanker that was converted to a floating forward staging base, have been heading south along the east coast of Africa, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive subject.