US denies sending American accused of spying in Venezuela


FILE – In this March 12, 2020 file picture, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offers a press convention at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela. Independent specialists commissioned by the U.N.’s high human rights physique have issued a scathing, in-depth report discovering the federal government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro chargeable for crimes in opposition to humanity. The report commissioned final yr by the 47-member-state Human Rights Council stated the alleged crimes embody extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture. The findings issued Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020 had been based mostly on nearly 3,000 instances, interviews and different proof. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A senior U.S. official on Wednesday rejected claims that the federal government despatched an American citizen to Venezuela the place he’s been charged with plotting terrorist assaults and labeled a spy.

Venezuelan authorities say they captured a person recognized as Matthew John Heath with a trove of pictures, specialised weapons and money. They say it proves he was plotting assaults on navy installations, oil refineries and {the electrical} service.

However, U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams made the primary public feedback by a U.S. official on Wednesday concerning the arrest, denying any involvement by Washington.

“The U.S. government did not send Mr. Heath to Venezuela,” Abrams stated.

President Nicolás Maduro final week introduced that authorities captured an alleged U.S. spy, and prosecutors later charged him with terrorism, trafficking unlawful weapons and conspiracy. They say he’s an ex-U.S. Marine with alleged ties to the CIA operations in Iraq.

The arrest is particularly difficult as a result of the U.S. has no embassy in Caracas ever for the reason that two nations broke diplomatic relations over a yr in the past after the White House endorsed opposition politician Juan Guaidó’s declare to the presidency, calling Maduro’s grip on energy illegitimate.

“Obviously we’re always concerned when we get a report about an American who has been jailed in a foreign country,” Abrams stated.

The arrest surfaced as this nation, as soon as rich from oil, has been gripped by a deep gasoline scarcity that has sparked mile-long traces to gas up, even within the capital of Caracas. Venezuela additionally struggles to supply electrical energy to residents, particularly in Zulia state, as soon as a serious hub of the nation’s huge oil manufacturing.

Heath is accused of focusing on the Amuay and Cardon refineries — a part of the huge Paraguana Refinery Complex on Venezuela’s northern Caribbean coast. However, the refineries battle to supply gasoline, and Venezuela will depend on shipments from Iran, regardless of having the world’s largest oil reserves.

Heath is accused of getting into Venezuela illegally, the prosecutor stated, including that he didn’t have a passport however reasonably had a replica of it hidden in considered one of his footwear. A coin he was carrying hyperlinks him to the CIA, officers have stated.

The three Venezuelans accused of conspiring with Heath embody a navy officer, authorities have stated. Another 4 Venezuelans arrested within the case are accused of serving to him enter from Colombia.

Two ex-Green Berets had been not too long ago sentenced to 20 years in Venezuela for collaborating in a failed seaside assault in early May that left a number of insurgent Venezuelan fighters lifeless and dozens extra in jail. The group of accused “mercenaries” had got down to arrest Maduro, organizers stated.