Venezuela seizes empty Colombian combat boats days after failed invasion plot

By Reuters

Venezuela’s military says it has seized three abandoned Colombian light combat vessels that soldiers found while patrolling the Orinoco river on Saturday, several days after the government accused its neighbour of aiding a failed invasion plot.

In a statement, the defence ministry said the boats were equipped with machine guns and ammunition, but had no crew, adding they were discovered as part of a nationwide operation to guarantee Venezuela’s “freedom and sovereignty”.

According to a preliminary investigation the boats were dragged away by strong river currents, Colombia’s navy said in a statement.

Colombia’s navy said it is talking with its counterparts in Venezuela about recovering the boats.

In televised comments Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, said the military would return the boats if the Colombian government made an official request for them.

Venezuela will make an official complaint to the United Nations accusing Colombia and the US of violating international law for the failed invasion attempt, Maduro added.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan state television broadcast an interrogation video of a former US soldier, in which he said a Florida security firm had hired him to train dissident Venezuelan troops in Colombia for an operation to seize control of Caracas’ airport and capture Maduro.

Authorities said they arrested the man, Luke Denman, along with a second US citizen and 11 others, as they attempted to enter Venezuela by boat on Monday from Colombia. The government said a separate raid attempt the day before left eight people dead.

Maduro on Wednesday accused Colombian President Iván Duque of enabling the operation, which Duque denied.