Raul Gorrin, a Venezuelan TV tycoon wanted in the US for money laundering and bribery, acted as a middleman in negotiations between the US government and potential defectors from the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, The Wall Street Journal reported.
He reportedly tried to convince Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Maikel Moreno, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino, and counter-intelligence chief General Ivan Hernández to support self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaido in his unsuccessful coup attempt on 30 April in exchange for lifting sanctions on them. The three were notably appealed to by US National Security Adviser John Bolton on the day of the attempted coup, but in the end remained loyal to Maduro.
According to a report by Venezuelan online media outlet Armando Info, in order to show the seriousness of his offer, Gorrin brought up the lifting of sanctions on Maria Alexandra Perdomo, the wife of a Venezuelan official. Perdomo was removed from the US Treasury's sanctions list in March 2019, shortly before the coup took place.
Neither the US government, nor Venezuela, nor Gorrin have confirmed The Wall Street Journal report, but US special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams admitted that Washington had tried to win the support of Venezuelan officials for Guaido using sanctions as a stimulus.
"We have been messaging people in the regime publicly and repeatedly that we are absolutely willing to remove sanctions on any individual who assists in restoring democracy to Venezuela", the envoy said.
Venezuela has been embroiled in a political crisis ever since opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself an interim president and called for ousting democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro. Guaido's claims were supported by most Western states, including the US, but Russia, China, Turkey and a number of other states condemned the move and supported Maduro.
On 30 April, Guaido called on the Venezuelan military to join him in ousting the elected president, but few answered the call and his coup attempt ultimately failed. Many of Guaido's followers were either arrested or sought asylum in consulates and other countries. Since then, the opposition leader has been mulling over the possibility of calling for a US military intervention, something that Washington has admitted to considering.
The US has been pressuring Maduro and his government to resign for several years, pressuring the country with economic sanctions and trying to curtail its oil export.