Erik Prince, the founder of the Blackwater private security contractor and a supporter of US President Donald Trump, has offered to deploy an army of mercenaries to help oust Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, Reuters reported, citing four sources with knowledge of the matter.
According to the report, over the past few months Prince has been seeking investment and political backing for his alleged plans from Trump supporters and well-off Venezuelans living in exile.
Reuters noted that neither the White House, nor the Maduro government had responded to the comments, while Edward Rodriguez, a spokesman for Guaido, said that the country’s opposition officials had not discussed security ops with Prince.
As for Prince, his spokesperson Marc Cohen said earlier this month that the Blackwater founder had “no plans to operate or implement an operation in Venezuela”.
However, according to Reuters, the director of investor relations at Prince’s private equity firm Frontier Resource Group, Lital Leshem, confirmed his interest in a Venezuela mission.
“He does have a solution for Venezuela, just as he has a solution for many other places”, the media outlet cited her as saying.
Two insiders with direct knowledge claim that Prince had requested at least $40 million in funds from private investors, as well as billions of dollars in frozen Venezuelan assets – although it remains unclear how the Guaido-led opposition could get hold of them.
His efforts to start an intelligence mission in the chaos-hit Latin American country are still ongoing, as one source alleged that Prince had held meetings in mid-April.
Earlier in the day, Guaido encouraged the nation and the Venezuelan Armed Forces to take to the streets in Caracas and ensure “the definitive cessation of the usurpation” of constitutionally elected President Maduro.
His calls were denounced by Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Lopez, who blasted Guaido’s “coup movement” and attempts to “fill the country with violence”. The minister reaffirmed the military’s loyalty to President Maduro, saying that the situation at all military bases remained stable.
In mid-January, two days after the Venezuelan Supreme Court annulled his election, Guaido proclaimed himself interim president in defiance of legitimate President Maduro, who was sworn in for a second term on 10 January.
Guaido’s move was immediately recognised by the United States, with other countries around the world following suit, while Maduro blasted Guaido as a US “puppet” and dismissed the entire situation as a coup attempt staged by Washington.
As the Venezuelan crisis was gaining momentum in late January, US National Security Adviser John Bolton was spotted holding a yellow notepad with the words “5,000 troops to Colombia” during a presser on new sanctions against Caracas.
Given POTUS’ repeated remarks that “all options are on the table” for Venezuela, the mysterious note reinforced concerns that the Trump administration was planning to deploy armed forces to Colombia amid the political crisis in neighbouring Venezuela.
At the time, Acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan told reporters that he had not discussed the alleged plan with Bolton.