The US is continuing with its all-out effort to bludgeon Venezuela into submission, maintaining its menacing albeit ambiguous threats against several Iranian tankers carrying fuel to the South American country as a supplementary measure to its sweeping sanctions and economic blockade and reckless military and paramilitary aggressions. The US push to exert maximum pressure on its adversaries has brought both regions to flashpoint once again, as a fleet of US warships has been deployed to patrol maritime approaches to Venezuela for ‘Enhanced Counter-Narcotic Operations’ and up to five Iranian vessels have been identified by several companies tracking marine traffic as being on a course to deliver fuel from Iran to Venezuela.
The threats against the fuel shipments are the latest in a long list of belligerent and hostile acts against Venezuela, from sabotage attacks against the country’s electricity grid, to last year’s dramatic assassination attempt with drones against President Nicolas Maduro at a military parade, repeated attempts to incite mutinies at military garrisons, to the failed mercenary attack that included a maritime incursion from neighbouring Colombia.
Many aspects of the failed mercenary incursion appear to have been clarified.
On the 3rd and 4th of May, two speedboats carrying armed groups were intercepted by Venezuelan armed forces on the shores of La Guaira and Aragua States, respectively. At eight members of the paramilitary forces were killed.
US Army special operations veteran Jordan Goudreau claimed he organized the coup plot, which he called “Operation Gedeon,” together with a retired Venezuelan Major General (Cliver Alcala). Among those arrested were two ex-green berets, who claimed during interrogation by Venezuelan authorities that their mission was to secure the Maiquetia international airport, kidnap Maduro, and transport him to the United States.
Speaking Saturday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused Washington and Bogota of involvement, stating in a televised address:
“[Colombian] authorities in Riohacha, Barranquilla and Alta Guajira were aware of the mercenaries’ presence and the training camps. Any independent investigation would reveal the Colombian government’s involvement in this armed incursion against Venezuela.”
Venezuelan authorities also drew attention to a contract in which the Venezuelan opposition hired Goudreau’s Florida-based private security firm, Silvercorp, to overthrow the Maduro government in exchange for a US $213 million fee. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, as well as advisors Juan Jose (J.J.) Rendon and Sergio Vergara, appear as signatories in a copy leaked by Goudreau. The terms of the extraordinary agreement – according to which the “Service Provider Advisors 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” – have been published online by the Washington Post.
The agreement includes details regarding the opposition’s payments to Silvercorp in addition to the firm’s future role in “counter-terrorism” and “counter-narcotics” activities under a Guaido administration. The paramilitary forces were also to deploy deadly anti-personnel mines, strike infrastructure and other economic targets.
Attorney General Tarek William Saab has announced that ex-green berets Luke Denman and Airen Berry have been charged with terrorism, conspiracy and arms trafficking. The detained Venezuelans were charged with conspiracy with a foreign government, treason, terrorism, among others.
The Trump administration issued has denied any involvement in Operation Gedeon, as have Colombian officials.
Many however consider it likely that the US had prior knowledge of the operation. The Wall Street Journal published a report citing anonymous sources who claimed that the CIA and Colombian intelligence monitored paramilitary training camps headed by Alcala in Colombia.