US "Spy" To Be Charged With Terrorism: Venezuela

Elias Hubbard
September 15, 2020

During a press conference Monday, Venezuela's Attorney General Tareck William Saab told reporters that Heath formed part of a "US intelligence operation" which sought to "collect strategic information regarding military, electrical and oil-based installations" in order to "infiltrate United States intelligence agents" from Colombia and carry out "acts of sabotage".

Mr Saab said the USA citizen, Matthew John Heath, was plotting attacks against Venezuela's oil industry and electricity system.

Venezuela announced the arrest on Friday, saying the man had been spying on two oil refineries when he was captured with cash and weapons.

Outlets close to the ruling Socialist Party identified the detainee as a former marine, John Heath Mattew, and said he was arrested on Thursday with three other people including a sergeant major in Venezuela's National Guard as they drove between Falcon and Zulia states in northwestern Venezuela.

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 United States dollars, and a satellite phone, which Heath has reportedly refused to unblock.

Saab said the US citizen, Matthew John Heath, was plotting attacks against Venezuela's oil industry and electricity system.

USA authorities have not commented on the case. The Associated Press was unable to make immediate contact with Heath, an attorney or a relative representing him for comment on the accusations.

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.

Saab said Heath was not carrying a passport and had entered illegally via the Colombian border, but that authorities found a passport photocopy hidden in one of his shoes.

Neither Venezuela's information ministry nor prosecutor's office immediately responded to requests for comment on Sunday.

Maduro said the man was a U.S. marine who had previously served "at Central Intelligence Agency bases in Iraq".

The operation mounted from makeshift training camps in neighbouring Colombia left several rebels dead.

Last month two former United States soldiers, Luke Alexander Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41, were sentenced to 20 years in prison in Venezuela on charges including terrorism, after a failed bid to invade the Caribbean country last May. Authorities said the two men confessed to being part of the plot.

While the Trump administration denied having anything to do with the bungled May incursion, Washington backs Venezuelan opposition politician Juan Guaidó as the country's legitimate leader in place of Maduro.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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