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Further arrests made over botched Venezuelan coup attempt

Another member of a gang involved in a failed coup plot in Venezuela was detained on Saturday by the country’s armed forces, as police confirmed that search and capture operations are still ongoing for the remainder.

The latest arrest, made in the northern state of Aragua, brings the total number of mercenaries held to 90.

Former US Green Berets Luke Denman and Airan Berry appeared in court on Friday over their part in Operation Gideon, a plan to kidnap President Nicolas Maduro and replace him with opposition politician Juan Guaido.

The pair were remanded in custody pending trial to prevent them from fleeing the country.

They have admitted being hired by US-based private security company Silvercorp, whose head Jordan Goudreau signed a $212 million (£172m) contract with Mr Guaido last October.

Mr Goudreau told a Venezuelan opposition journalist that the company had been tasked with providing services including “strategic planning,” “equipment procuring” and “project execution advice” by the opposition politician.

Despite the mounting evidence, Mr Guaido continues to deny his involvement in the botched coup attempt.

Last Wednesday, the nephew of retired army general Cliver Alcala Cordones was among those arrested by the Bolivarian navy in the mountainous Petaquirito area of La Guaria state.

Mr Alcala was responsible for training and arming paramilitaries in Colombia ahead of the coup attempt. But he handed himself over to members of the US Drug Enforcement Agency last month and was whisked out of the country.

Mr Maduro believes that Mr Alcala was operating as a US asset as part of wider plans to replace the government with a Washington-backed administration.

The US has ratcheted up pressure on Venezuela through a series of punitive sanctions. Last month, it sent warships to the region under the guise of anti-drug trafficking operations.

The deployment, reminiscent of the build-up to the removal of former CIA asset Manuel Noriega from power in Panama in 1989, came soon after Venezuela was branded a “narco-terror state.”

Washington has also placed a £15 million bounty on Mr Maduro’s head.

In a carefully worded statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied the “direct involvement” of the US government in the failed coup plot.

Mr Maduro insists that President Donald Trump deliberately outsourced the operation so that, if it failed, the mercenaries could be “left to their own luck.”

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