Venezuela’s government has said it foiled a marine incursion by “terrorist mercenaries” who attempted to enter the country on speedboats from neighbouring Colombia, adding security forces killed eight of the fighters.
The group landed early on Sunday on a beach in the port city of La Guaira, about 20 miles (32km) from the capital Caracas, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said in a televised address.
“They tried to carry out an invasion by sea, a group of terrorist mercenaries from Colombia, in order to commit terrorist acts in the country, murdering leaders of the revolutionary government,” he said.
Socialist Party leader Diosdado Cabello said eight people were killed and two were detained.
“We have deactivated an attempted incursion of our territory, thanks to intelligence efforts,” Cabello told reporters.
President Nicolas Maduro frequently accuses political adversaries of attempting to overthrow his administration with the support of the United States, which has promised to force him from office through sanctions that have crippled the OPEC nations’ oil exports.
Critics of the governing Socialist Party often dismiss such accusations as stunts used as an excuse to detain opponents of the government.
Maduro has overseen a six-year economic crisis that has left many citizens unable to obtain basic food and medicine and forced nearly five million people to emigrate.
The US and more than 50 other countries disavowed Maduro after his disputed 2018 election, which they say was rigged, and instead have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the nation’s legitimate interim leader.
But Maduro retains the backing of the country’s armed forces as well as countries including China and Russia, which have harshly criticised the US sanctions.
The US has led a campaign to remove Maduro, increasing pressure in recent weeks by indicting the socialist leader as a drug trafficker and offering a $15m reward for his arrest.
The US has also increased sanctions, cutting off Venezuela’s oil sector to choke Maduro from a key source of hard cash.
In addition to that pressure, Maduro‘s government has faced several small-scale military threats, including an attempt to assassinate Maduro with a drone and Guaido‘s call for a military uprising, which was joined by few soldiers.
Maduro and his allies say the Trump administration is determined to end Venezuela‘s socialist government to exploit the South American nation‘s vast underground oil reserves.