US officials secretly met with Venezuelan military officers plotting a coup against Maduro

Washington (CNN)US officials met secretly with Venezuelan military officers who were plotting a coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, both a current and a former US official confirmed to CNN. American officials met with the renegade Venezuelan military officers several times over the last year after the Venezuelan officers made contact, but Washington ultimately decided against supporting the coup, the two sources said. The US did not provide the Venezuelan officers with any support and the plans for the coup ultimately fell apart, the sources said. The Trump administration’s discussions with the Venezuelan military officers about a potential coup were first reported Saturday morning by the New York Times. The current and former US officials confirmed to CNN that report is accurate. The White House declined to comment on the meetings between US officials and Venezuelan military officers, but said in a statement the US continues to support “a peaceful orderly return to democracy in Venezuela.” “U.S. policy preference for a peaceful, orderly return to democracy in Venezuela remains unchanged. The United States government hears daily the concerns of Venezuelans from all walks of life — be they members of the ruling party, the security services, elements of civil society or from among the millions of citizens forced by the regime to flee abroad. They share one goal: the rebuilding of democracy in their homeland,” said National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis. “A lasting solution to Venezuela’s worsening crisis can only arise following restoration of governance by democratic practices, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza responded to the news through his verified Twitter account, saying the Maduro government denounces efforts to intervene in the Latin American nation. “We denounce before the world the intervention plans and the support to military conspiracies by the US government against Venezuela. In the US’s own media came to light new and crass evidence,” Arreaza tweeted. President Donald Trump has previously discussed the possibility of a military option in Venezuela. “We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I am not going to rule out a military option,” Trump said last August. Asked about the possibility of a military intervention in response to the mounting crisis in the country, the President said that is something the US “certainly could pursue.” Taking military action against Venezuela would be a dramatic escalation of the US’s so-far solely diplomatic and sanctions-focused response to the political and economic crisis roiling the South American country. In August 2017, Trump asked several advisers about the possibility of invading Venezuela, CNN reported in July. The Times’ report included details from the secret meetings, citing 11 current and former US officials and a former Venezuelan military commander sanctioned by the US government who was involved in the secret meetings.