The botched mission to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was doomed from the start, according to a report.
Jordan Goudreau, a 43-year-old former Green Beret who has claimed credit for the raid by a ragtag group of mercenaries, concocted the ill-fated plan from a luxury Miami apartment late last year, the Guardian reported.
Reps of opposition leader Juan Guaidó signed a contract with Goudreau for the half-baked mission, but a senior opposition figure told the news outlet that they grew to doubt the ex-soldier and broke with him months before the raid.
The fiasco led to the capture of two other former Green Berets – Airan Berry, 41, and Luke Denman, 34 – along with more than 100 other participants. Eight people were reported killed.
Berry was seen on video being interrogated, saying he knew his actions were illegal. His fellow captive said in another video that they had been hired to secure an airport that could be used to whisk Maduro to the US.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would use “every tool” to get the two released. The White House has denied any US involvement in the plot.
On Sunday, Goudreau called the mission — code-named Operation Gideon — a “daring, amphibious raid.”
“Our units have been activated in the south, west and in the east of Venezuela,” he said, clad in a golf shirt and standing next to Javier Nieto Quintero, a former Venezuelan national guard captain.
But any semblance of operational security had already been compromised by then – after The Associated Press published a long investigation exposing the plan two days earlier, the Guardian reported.
Goudreau, who served in the Canadian military before joining the US Green Berets, spent 15 years as a medical sergeant and served several stints in Iraq and Afghanistan, the news outlet reported.
In 2018, he founded security contractor Silvercorp USA, whose original plan was to provide guards to protect US schools from mass shootings.
While providing security for a concert in aid of Venezuelan refugees organized by British billionaire Richard the following year, Goudreau met Cliver Alcalá, a Venezuelan former general who defected to the opposition.
The two soon began strategizing about how to overthrow Maduro, according to the Guardian.
A few months later, Goudreau met in Miami with Juan José Rendón, a Venezuelan exile appointed by Guaidó to devise ways of taking power, the news outlet reported.
Rendón said had explored all legal means of overthrowing Maduro and also interviewed security consultants, mostly mercenaries.
“There were no limits – $1 billion, $1.5 billion,” Rendón told the Guardian.
But Goudreau’s outfit was asking for much less – about $213 million from Venezuela’s future oil earnings and a retainer of $1.5 million, the news outlet reported.
“He was supposedly preparing something in Venezuela that would have gone through the Colombian border,” Rendón told the Guardian.
In October, they reached an agreement for “an operation to capture/detain/remove Nicolás Maduro … remove the current regime and install the recognized Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó,” the outlet reported.
Goudreau has publicized pages from the agreement, including one ostensibly signed by Guaidó, but the would-be president has denied that it is his signature and also has denied any involvement in the plot.
Rendón, who paid Goudreau $50,000 of his own money to cover expenses, soon began doubting that Goudreau had the military resources or expertise.
Rendón showed the Guardian copies of irate texts he said were from Goudreau, demanding a $1.5 million advance.
“I will get the 1.5 the legal way. What a shame,” one text said. “We gave this to you on a silver platter and you f—- the whole thing up.”
Rendón said he lost confidence in Goudreau because of his “character, his moods” and “lack of respect.”
The dispute over the retainer fee came to a boil in November when Goudreau, Nieto and other exiles confronted Rendón at his Miami home.
“That conversation got heated, heated, heated and at the end Nieto intervened and we went to my balcony to chill,” Rendón told the Guardian, adding that he heard nothing more until April when he received a lawyer’s letter demanding the $1.5 million.
Preparations for the mission began to unravel in late March when Colombian authorities stopped Jorge Alberto Molinares driving along the Caribbean coast in a car filled with assault rifles, flak jackets and helmets he was moving to a safe house near Venezuela, according to the Guardian.
Police had placed the house under surveillance after the landlord complained that the residents had missed rent payments.
Molinares told investigators he was delivering the military gear to a Robert Levin Colina Ibarra, known as “El Pantera,” who was killed in the botched mission.
Berry, one of the captured US mercenaries, told state TV that the plan was to abduct Maduro from his palace in the heart of Caracas — although he was unsure how they would pull that off.
After the mercenaries were collared Sunday, Maduro claimed his agents had infiltrated the operation long ago.
“We knew everything,” he said. “What they ate, what they didn’t eat. What they drank. Who financed them.”
As Operation Gideon fell apart, Goudreau said: “I’m out a lot of money, a lot. A lot of us came together to do this. I’ve been a freedom fighter my whole life. This is all I know.”
Neither Goudreau nor his lawyer returned calls from the Guardian seeking comment.
Credit: Source link