United States ‘spy’ to be charged with terrorism in Venezuela

Four men were arrested close to the Paraguaná Refining Complex in Falcon State on Thursday including a US citizen accused by authorities of being a “spy.”

Four men were arrested close to the Paraguaná Refining Complex in Falcon State on Thursday including a US citizen accused by authorities of being a “spy.”

The alleged United States spy, Matthew John Heath, is charged with terrorism and weapons trafficking in Venezuela, the country's chief prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, announced on Monday.

Pro-government media in Venezuela on Sunday named an alleged USA spy who President Nicolas Maduro said was captured last week near the country's largest oil refinery complex.

Everything here could qualify as a lethal weapon created to cause harm and to promote assassinations, crimes against the people of Venezuela.

Though Washington denied any role in the ill-fated raid, Caracas insists the plot received backing from the Trump administration, which has steadily ramped up a rhetorical and policy offensive against the embattled South American state in recent months.

The four men were reportedly collating information about the nearby Amuay and Cardon refineries, and were caught in possession of "specialised weapons", including an AT4 84mm grenade launcher, an UZI 9mm submachine gun, four blocks of C4 explosives, large amounts of USA dollars, and a satellite phone, which Heath has reportedly refused to unblock. The Associated Press was unable to make immediate contact with Heath, an attorney or a relative representing him for comment on the accusations.

The four detainees, as well as four more Venezuelans who were subsequently arrested in Maracaibo City in connection to the operation, are to be charged with terrorism, illegal arms trafficking and criminal association.

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The arrest surfaced as this nation, once wealthy from oil, has been gripped by a deep gasoline shortage that has sparked mile-long lines to fuel up, even in the capital of Caracas. He only had a copy of his passport, hidden in his shoe, and refused to unlock his satellite phone for the authorities, Saab said.

He added that Mr Heath had Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ties and help from three Venezuelan conspirators, who were arrested with him last week near oil refineries on the north Caribbean coast. "The Venezuelan state has managed to neutralize the plans to attack the oil industry and national electric system".

The arrest follows a failed beach incursion in early May that landed two ex-Green Beret soldiers in a Venezuelan jail for allegedly participating in a failed attempt to overthrow the socialist government.

Caracas last month sentenced two former U.S. soldiers to 20 years in prison for their role in a May incursion aimed at ousting Mr Maduro.

The ex-Green Berets in Goudreau's force - Luke Denman and Airan Berry - have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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