Two American mercenaries involved in an attempted coup in Venezuela in May were sentenced to 20 years in prison by a judge on Friday.
Former servicemen Luke Denman and Airan Berry have admitted to being involved in an operation to overthrow the Venezuelan regime on May 4. The coup attempt was prepared by a Florida-based security company and possibly funded by the Venezuelan opposition.
The prison sentence was announced by Tarek William Saab, the prosecutor of Venezuela. Denman and Berry were found guilty of conspiracy, arms smuggling and terrorism. Saab says others involved in the coup attempt are also being prosecuted.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro took full advantage of the arrest of the two Americans earlier this year. He saw it as evidence that the United States government is seeking to overthrow its socialist government.
Coup doomed to failure
The coup, dubbed Operation Gideon, seemed doomed from the start. Despite clear indications that the Venezuelan authorities were aware of the impending coup attempt, the mercenaries decided to press ahead. However, before they could reach land, they were intercepted by the security forces. At least eight people were killed.
The idea behind Operation Gideon was to arrest Maduro, transfer him to the US for trial and install a new government. The US government has always denied involvement in the plan.