As we've recently observed, Washington's push to oust Maduro is by no means over, even if seemingly less intensified as well and central to media coverage. Currently for example, there's some level of build-up of US naval ships in the Caribbean ordered by the administration off Venezuela's coast for what the White House had described early last month as "counter-narcotics operations".
And now the Associated Press has unearthed the stunning details of a prior failed coup attempt that seem straight out of a Hollywood script, given it involved a plot centered on about 300 “heavily armed volunteers” who unsuccessfully tried to topple Nicolas Maduro in a “private coup” allegedly funded by US billionaires.
The American overseer of the whole operation was a former Green Beret who ran secret training camps in neighboring Colombia, with the aim to infiltrate the group into Venezuela in order to fuel momentum for a broader 'armed popular uprising' à la covert CIA-style Syria regime change ops.
The details are as follows according to the AP:
The plan was simple, but perilous. Some 300 heavily armed volunteers would sneak into Venezuela from the northern tip of South America. Along the way, they would raid military bases in the socialist country and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in President Nicolás Maduro’s arrest.
What could go wrong? As it turns out, pretty much everything.
The ringleader of the plot is now jailed in the U.S. on narcotics charges. Authorities in the U.S. and Colombia are asking questions about the role of his muscular American adviser, a former Green Beret. And dozens of desperate combatants who flocked to secret training camps in Colombia said they have been left to fend for themselves amid the coronavirus pandemic.
And like other more recent disastrous failed plots to oust the socialist strongman in Caracas, such as last year's short-lived rebellion a small group of Juan Guaido loyal officers, AP reports the "The failed attempt to start an uprising collapsed under the collective weight of skimpy planning, feuding among opposition politicians and a poorly trained force that stood little chance of beating the Venezuelan military."
It's unclear the extent to which it had the official backing or coordination with US intelligence, or the degree to which it was an entirely private, 'rogue' undertaking, though Venezuelan state media has slammed the newly emerged plot as another failed CIA coup attempt.
Though at times while pitching and discussing his plan, ex-Green Beret Goudrea — who in 2018 established his private security firm Silvercorp USA — had contact with individuals linked to President Trump (such as a veteran personal bodyguard of Trump's) as well as a who's who of shady defected Venezuelan military officers, the AP report claims that any Washington officials or people of influence who caught a whiff of his bizarre plan rejected it and distanced themselves from it.
lt all began, according to the AP, after April 2019 with what's colorfully described as a “Star Wars summit of anti-Maduro goofballs”. The report details:
Planning for the incursion began after an April 30, 2019, barracks revolt by a cadre of soldiers who swore loyalty to Maduro’s would-be replacement, Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader recognized by the U.S. and some 60 other nations as Venezuela’s rightful leader. Contrary to U.S. expectations at the time, key Maduro aides never joined with the opposition and the government quickly quashed the uprising.
A few weeks later, some soldiers and politicians involved in the failed rebellion retreated to the JW Marriott in Bogota, Colombia. The hotel was a center of intrigue among Venezuelan exiles. For this occasion, conference rooms were reserved for what one participant described as the “Star Wars summit of anti-Maduro goofballs” — military deserters accused of drug trafficking, shady financiers and former Maduro officials seeking redemption.
Among those angling in the open lobby was Jordan Goudreau, an American citizen and three-time Bronze Star recipient for bravery in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he served as a medic in U.S. Army special forces, according to five people who met with the former soldier.
Those he interacted with in the U.S. and Colombia described him in interviews alternately as a freedom-loving patriot, a mercenary and a gifted warrior scarred by battle and in way over his head.
The 43-year old Goudreau soon landed a spot helping to organize security for the February 2019 controversial 'Live Aid freedom-type' opposition supporting concert put on by British billionaire Richard Branson, held on the Venezuelan-Colombian border.
Goudreau had later written of the event: “Controlling chaos on the Venezuela border where a dictator looks on with apprehension,” according to an Instagram post showing him working the concert, which attempted to gem up popular support for ousting Maduro.
The invasion plans involving 300 trained and armed rebel soldiers hinged on Goudreau working closely with a ringleader of the Venezuelan military deserters, Cliver Alcalá, previously a retired major general in Venezuela’s army, as AP continues:
Goudreau told Alcalá his company could prepare the men for battle, according to the three sources. The two sides discussed weapons and equipment for the volunteer army, with Goudreau estimating a budget of around $1.5 million for a rapid strike operation.
Goudreau told participants at the meeting that he had high-level contacts in the Trump administration who could assist the effort, although he offered few details, the three people said. Over time, many of the people involved in the plan to overthrow Maduro would come to doubt his word.
From the outset, the audacious plan split an opposition coalition already sharply divided by egos and strategy. There were concerns that Alcalá, with a murky past and ties to the regime through a brother who was Maduro’s ambassador to Iran, couldn’t be trusted. Others worried about going behind the backs of their Colombian allies and the U.S. government.
However, training camps along the border appeared spartan and ill-prepared, with recruits sleeping in barren conditions with lack of enough food and weaponry.
But documented evidence shows plans for major weapons shipments, some of which reportedly did arrive and were later recovered inside Venezuela's borders by Maduro's military:
The volunteers also shared with Mattos a three-page document listing supplies needed for a three-week operation, which he provided to AP. Items included 320 M4 assault rifles, an anti-tank rocket launcher, Zodiac boats, $1 million in cash and state-of-the-art night vision goggles. The document’s metadata indicates it was created by Goudreau on June 16.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of cowboys in this business who try to peddle their military credentials into a big pay day,” said Mattos.
The CIA among other US agencies would deny ever having anything to do with Goudreau and the ultimately failed plan.
However, the report emphasizes it had the support of particular American billionaire businessmen. AP describes:
When the Colombians checked with their CIA counterparts in Bogota, they were told that the former Green Beret was never an agent. Alcalá was then told by his hosts to stop talking about an invasion or face expulsion, the former Colombian official said.
It’s unclear where Alcalá and Goudreau got their backing, and whatever money was collected for the initiative appears to have been meager. One person who allegedly promised support was Roen Kraft, an eccentric descendant of the cheese-making family who — along with former Trump bodyguard Schiller — was among those meeting with opposition envoys in Miami and Washington.
At some point, Kraft started raising money among his own circle of fellow trust-fund friends for what he described as a “private coup” to be carried out by Silvercorp, according to two businessmen whom he asked for money.
The ragtag poorly planned 'invasion' was thwarted by the Venezuelan military essentially at the border from the start:
The plot quickly crumbled in early March when one of the volunteer combatants was arrested after sneaking across the border into Venezuela from Colombia.
Shortly after, Colombian police stopped a truck transporting a cache of brand new weapons and tactical equipment worth around $150,000, including spotting scopes, night vision goggles, two-way radios and 26 American-made assault rifles with the serial numbers rubbed off. Fifteen brown-colored helmets were manufactured by High-End Defense Solutions, a Miami-based military equipment vendor owned by a Venezuelan immigrant family.
Currently, the main organizers, including Alcalá and Goudreau himself, are in prison. The ex-Green Beret is now in US federal custody reportedly on narcotic charges, but the details remain unclear.