CARACAS, Venezuela. May 5th 2020. Two American citizens have been arrested by authorities in Venezuela along with a dozen others in a failed paramilitary attempt to “detain/capture/remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro,” that was dubbed “Operation Gideon”.
This is according to reports from the Washington Post and Al Jazeera, and statements from the Maduro administration. The two Americans, identified as Airan Berry, 41, and Luke Denman, 34, were both ex-special forces, and a third involved American who claims he masterminded the attempt on Maduro’s life, Jordan Goudreau, was a former Green Beret.
Venezuelan authorities say the May 3rd attack off the Caribbean coast left 8 people dead. According to Al Jazeera, Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said “the attackers tried to land on speedboats before dawn on a ‘beach at Macuto, about an hour north of Caracas, but were intercepted by the military and special police units”.
The night after the attack, Goudreau, who leads a Florida-based security company, SilverCorp USA, claimed responsibility for the incursion, saying he signed an agreement with Venezuelan opposition leader and self-styled “Interim-President” of the country, Juan Guaido.
Where the major players stand
U.S. President Donald Trump said on May 5th that his government was not involved, while Sec. of State Mike Pompeo said the State Dep. would use every measure to secure the detained Americans’ release.
Juan Guaido, who has been suffering from a plummeting of national support, but remains the recognized leader of the country by over 60 nations, denies any involvement with the coup.
The Maduro government blamed the United States primarily at first, but switched focus to Guaido after the release of a 42-page report by the Washington Post regarding the details of the operation.
Popular Will and First Justice, the political parties Guaido is affiliated with, released a statement claiming “the democratic forces do not promote or finance guerrillas, outbreaks of violence or paramilitary groups”
A comedy of errors
Luke Denman, one of the Americans involved, was shown in a video as saying he was tasked by Goudreau and SilverCorp with controlling Caracas airport and spiriting away Maduro to the United States so that Guaido could take over the country. Denman and Berry will both be tried in Venezuelan civilian court according to Al Jazeera.
Goudreau who appears in the video below, said he planned the operation on a “shoestring budget” accusing Guaido of failing to pay what was promised for the operation. Maduro claims the contract between Goudreau and Guaido is valued at around $200 million.
In the story on the Washington Post, the October agreement between Goudreau and Guaido was made with the e-Green Beret recording in secret a brief segment of audio dialogue with the so-called Interim President, which he provided to the Post.
“We are doing the right thing for our country,” Guaidó is heard to say, and later: “I’m about to sign”. However J. J. Rendon, one of Guaido’s advisors who was working with Goudreau claimed his boss knew nothing about any attempted coups, and that he never signed any documents.
Along with accusing Guaido, Nicolas Maduro, in a televised address also placed blame on Ivan Duque, the President of Colombia.
An AP report claims Goudreau is in the middle of a massive gun-running conspiracy in Colombia as well, hatched in cooperation with an ex-Venezuelan army general Cliver Alcalá, to train dozens of Venezuelan military deserters in secret camps in in the jungles of Venezuela’s westerly neighbor to launch an operation against Maduro.
Goudreau’s alleged involvement in weapons smuggling dates to March 23rd when a seizure made by police in Colombia revealed a stockpile of weapons being transported in a truck. Worth around $150,000, the arsenal included night vision goggles and two-way radios which were also captured in the coup attempt on May 3rd, spotting scopes, and 26 American assault rifles with the serial numbers removed.
Who done it?
The 42-page plan provided to the Post offers minute tactical details involving specifics like which landmines to place where, and what riot gear to use.
“Service Provider Group will advise and assist Partner Group in Planning and executing an operation to capture/detain/remove Nicolas Maduro (heretoafter “Primary Objective”), remove the current Regime, and install the recognized Venezuelan President Juan Guaido,” reads the agreement according to AJ.
Rendon, whose signature seems to be on the document, said that Guaido had signed an “exploratory agreement” but never intended, agreed, or was aware of anything like what Operation Gideon became.
The logos of six other parties, including Democratic Action and A New Era, which have significant representation in the Venezuela National Assembly, a legislature made up of the parties outside of the executive, also appear on the document along with Sergio Vergara’s signiture of Guaido’s Popular Will party.
With Mike Pompeo announcing the State Department will use “every tool” to secure the release of any Americans held in Venezuela, even if it’s possible they’ve been charged with attempted assassination or kidnapping of the president, the Secretary well-summarizes the disdain he, his colleagues, the American legislature, and executive all seem to hold for the Venezuelan President.
Nicolas Maduro, a socialist with native roots who took over after the death of famed socialist leader Hugo Chavez, began his second term in office last January after being re-elected by a large margin. His re-election was smeared as corrupt and rigged, but such claims appearing lazy, irresponsible, and unfactual, nevertheless spurred a series of brutal American sanctions, the rise of Juan Guaido as a recognized authority by America and other, mostly NATO aligned states, an April 30th coup attempt by Guaido and supporters that was repelled, and several high profile scandals in Guaido’s camp.
Plummeting humanitarian and economic conditions in the country, as well as things like the arrival of COVID-19 have pushed the country to the brink of failed statehood, and some reports suggest that 5 million people have fled the country.
Continue exploring this topic — The Effects of Sanctions on Venezuela and Iran During COVID-19