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US denies sending Americans accused of spying to Venezuela

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

The US government did not send Mr. Heath to Venezuela, Abrams said.

President Nicols Maduro announced last week that authorities had captured an alleged American spy, and prosecutors then charged him with terrorism, illegal arms trafficking and conspiracy. They say he’s a former US Navy who has ties to CIA operations in Iraq.

The arrest is particularly difficult because the United States does not have an embassy in Caracas since the two countries severed diplomatic relations more than a year ago after the White House approved the politician’s claim to the Juan Guaids opposition to the presidency, calling Maduros’ takeover illegitimate.

Obviously, we were always concerned when we received a report of an American who was imprisoned in a foreign country, Abrams said.

The arrest has surfaced as this once oil-rich nation has been gripped by a severe gasoline shortage that has triggered miles-long lines to refuel even in the capital of Caracas. Venezuela also struggles to provide electricity to residents, especially in Zulia state, once a major hub for the country’s vast oil production.

Heath is accused of targeting the Amuay and Cardon refineries which are part of Paraguana’s massive refinery complex on Venezuela’s northern Caribbean coast. However, refineries are struggling to produce gasoline, and Venezuela depends on shipments from Iran, despite the world’s largest oil reserves.

Heath is accused of entering Venezuela illegally, the prosecutor said, adding that he did not have a passport but instead had a copy hidden in one of his shoes. A coin he was carrying connects him to the CIA, officials said.

The three Venezuelans accused of conspiring with Heath include a military officer, authorities said. Four other Venezuelans arrested in this case are accused of helping him enter from Colombia.

Two ex-Green Berets were recently sentenced to 20 years in prison in Venezuela for participating in a failed beach attack in early May that left several dead among Venezuelan rebel fighters and dozens more in prison . The group of accused mercenaries set out to arrest Maduro, organizers said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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