Venezuela is living some of the most uncertain hours in recent memory as an apparent poorly-planned plot to infiltrate the country and topple Maduro appears to be underway. As of the writing of this update, over a dozen supposed plotters have been arrested, and there are indications that others are still in the country.
News of the unfolding operation, which is being carried out by a mixed group of Venezuelan expatriates and at least two US citizens, first broke yesterday morning when it was first reported that the Venezuelan authorities had intercepted a boat carrying 10 armed men who were attempting to make an amphibious landing near Macuto, in La Guaira state.
After claiming responsibility for the failed raid in a short video message, Jordan Goudreau gave a bizarre interview to Venezuelan journalist Patricia Poleo during which he said that he had a contract signed by opposition leader Juan Guaido for the “general services to help the liberation of the country”, which apparently involved the raising of a mercenary force to carry out clandestine operations in Venezuela.
Goudreau also said that the opposition immediately broke the terms of the contract after it failed to pay the $1.5 million retainer within five days as stipulated in the document. Nevertheless, the plan to infiltrate the country and remove Maduro from power still went ahead, Goudreau explained.
When asked why the plan involved sending men on a small boat across more than 400 kilometres of open water from Colombia to La Guaira instead of entering the country through the largely unguarded border, Goudreau said:
Are you familiar with Alexander the Great? [He] struck deep into the heart of the enemy [at the battle of Gaugamela].
Poleo also shared images on social media through her Factores de Poder media outlet of the alleged contract between Guaido and Goudreau for the mercenary army. The document showing the images is a contract signed by Goudreau on behalf of his company, Silvercorp USA, and Guaido for unspecified services totaling $212,000,000. Notably, the first and last page of the contract are not shown, leaving what could be crucial details out of the picture:
Second Boat Intercepted Off Chuao
During the afternoon hours, a second boat carrying eight men–including two US citizens–was intercepted off the coast of Chuao, in Aragua state. Among them was Adolfo Baduel, the son of Raul Baduel who was once Minister of Defense before defecting and becoming one of the country’s highest-profile political prisoners.
Images of the men and their boat quickly surfaced on social media. The men appeared to be in different stages of undressed and appeared to be unarmed:
A Twitter account claiming to be the official portal for the mercenary force tweeted an image of two men it identified as “Luke and Aaron” aboard a boat that appears to be the same one as in the images above:
Two of the men arrested today are US citizens and former special forces soldiers, according to several sources The men’s names are Luke Denman and Aaron Barry.
Below, images of Barry and Denman after their capture, along with screenshots from a televised address this evening during which Maduro showed the mens’ passports:
Last night, the Silvercorp USA Twitter account tweeted that the operation was still ongoing, and that there were “2 American ex Green Beret” involved in an apparent reference to Denman and Barry:
A journalist with TeleSur shared a clip of the men who were arrested on the second boat in which one of the former Green Berets (with the mustache) can be seen:
Following the arrest of the men, one of the detained (Adolfo Baduel) was interrogated on the back of a police vehicle. PSUV vice president Diosdado Cabello shared a video on his Twitter account of part of that interrogation, during which Baduel said that two of the men who were with him on the mission had told him that they had worked with “the security team of the president of the United States”:
The Associated Press article that first revealed Goudreau’s activities included segments that made reference to his “boasting” that he had connections in the Trump administration, but given Goudreau’s past history of fraud, the article makes clear that the claims were suspect:
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.
Mattos said he grew wary as the men recalled how Goudreau had boasted to them of having protected Trump and told them he was readying a shipment of weapons and arranging aerial support for an eventual assault of Maduro’s compound.
AP found no indication U.S. officials sponsored Goudreau’s actions nor that Trump has authorized covert operations against Maduro, something that requires congressional notification.
During a televised address this evening, Maduro claimed that the involvement of US citizens in the failed raids is evidence that the operation was planned by the White House, though he provided no evidence for his claim.
Two Others Arrested in Puerto La Cruz with Weapons, Equipment
Later in the day, two men were arrested in Puerto la Cruz alongside a cache of weapons and equipment that included armor plates and radio equipment. The men are accused of participating in the same operation as the one involving the boats:
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