An American citizen who was convicted and jailed in Venezuela on terrorism charges after being accused of being a spy was not sent by the US government, a senior official said Wednesday.
Matthew John Heath was plotting attacks against the country’s oil industry and electricity system, according to Venezuela’s chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab, who said three Venezuelan nationals were also arrested along with Heath.
"From everything I’ve seen, it’s – I can say that the United States government did not send Mr. Heath to Venezuela," Elliott Abrams, the US special envoy for Venezuela and Iran, told reporters in a teleconference.
He said there is "a limit to what I can say because I don’t have the privacy waiver that would allow us for – that would allow us to say a bit more," adding Venezuela is a "particularly difficult" country as the US does not "have an embassy with a consular section in Caracas."
On Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said a marine had been captured with weapons and a large amount of cash. Maduro said Heath was serving as a marine at CIA bases in Iraq.
Saab said Heath and the other three detainees were attempting to "fill the country with blood," but Venezuelan authorities neutralized their plans.
In August, a Venezuelan court sentenced two former US special forces soldiers to 20 years in prison for their part in a failed coup attempt to oust the Maduro government in May./aa