Venezuela’s embattled president Nicolás Maduro claimed that his country captured an ex-U.S. marine “spy” near its largest oil refinery, though neither the State Department nor the White House confirmed if an American had indeed been arrested. Maduro—who clung to power after a 2018 election suspected as fraudulent—described the detainee as “a marine, who was serving as a marine on CIA bases in Iraq ... He was captured with specialized weapons, he was captured with large amounts of cash, large amounts of dollars and other items.” Relations between Maduro’s regime and the Trump administration remain chilly, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this year promising $15 million for “information leading to the arrest and/or conviction” of Maduro, and $10 million a pop for his top cronies, who have been charged with drug trafficking.
As outlandish as the “spy” arrest may sound—and Maduro stands to gain by blaming enemies abroad for the country’s fuel shortages and COVID woes—it wouldn’t be the first time this year Venezuela allegedly thwarted a foreign plot: in May, a small band of mercenaries, led by former U.S. military members (including a QAnon devotee), tried to invade Venezuela to force regime change. Their coup attempt was foiled by a group of angry local fishermen.