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VENEZUELA | Mercenary Operations Against Venezuela: An Evolution

Mercenary arrested in Venezuela | Photo: REDI Mercenary arrested in Venezuela | Photo: REDI
TeleSUR, May 23, 2020 - Venezuela has recently been subject to a number of attempts of mercenary penetration in the country. According to research conducted by authorities of the Venezuelan National Government, several armed cells made up by mercenaries and Venezuelan and foreign former militaries have intended to gather in Venezuelan territory in order to organize and perpetrate1 terrorist actions, including attempts on the lives of State authorities and chavismo leaders and, in turn, coordinate sedition among the FANB (Spanish acronym for National Bolivarian Armed Force).

The so-called Operation Gedeon, in fact, results from other developments and critical causes that have threatened the peace of the Republic. This operation is the consequence of an evolution that drives the development of war in the country and a planned prolonged instability cycle.

MOMENTUM OF A NEW TYPE OF TERRORISM IN VENEZUELA

On June 27, 2017, an officer of the CICPC (Spanish acronym of the Venezuelan Scientific and Criminal Police Corps) named Óscar Pérez, along with other fellow officers of a command unit of such security corps, hijacked a CICPC helicopter and perpetrated an attack with grenades against the headquarters of the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela in Caracas.

Even though the attack did not cause injuries, it meant a political and media shock both domestically and internationally. It was presented as a significant act of sedition by members of the State security corps and although such act could be deemed terrorist, the Venezuelan opposition, the international press and factors in the U.S. government chose to present it as a heroic deed, thus providing the new episode of what they call the struggle for freedom in Venezuela with an epic narrative.

In this fashion, a new criminal movement was born among some police and military factors in Venezuela, thus shaping terrorist groups that have shaped terrorist groups that are openly cheered by the political opposition and U.S. factors who began outlining a cycle of political instability in Venezuela.

Operación David3 (Operation David) was another paramilitary action that took place in the early morning of August 6, 2017 in the Venezuelan town of Naguanagua, State of Carabobo. Former low-rank militaries Jefferson García Plaza and Juan Caguaripano Scott, defectors of the FANB, led a group of armed men made up by civilians and active low-rank militaries and stole a large number of arms and ammunition from Paramacay Fort, which is the seat of the 41st Armoured Brigade of the Venezuelan Army.

In the early hours the anti-chavista media and opposition politicians defined the event as an uprising of the militaries in the Fort and not as what it actually was, that is, an attack.

The operation was foiled. Its main actors were captured and most of the stolen arsenal was retrieved. However, some participants remained at large because they were in contact with former police officer Óscar Pérez, mentioned above, and engaged in better manufactured and organized terrorist acts.

In December 2017, Óscar Pérez led an assault against a GNB (Spanish acronym of the Bolivarian National Guard) command located in Laguneta de la Montaña4, State of Miranda, where the assailants took over two trucks and 26 rifles and ammunition. Terrorism in Venezuela seemed to engage in operations not only to seize firearms but also to demoralize the State’s military forces and strengthen an instability cycle.

In January 2018, Óscar Pérez was located by Venezuelan military and police forces and he responded the calls for his surrendering with fire, thus getting killed in El Junquito, in the Capital District of Venezuela. In spite of Pérez’s fatal destiny, it was a fact that military sedition in Venezuela was being fed by efforts promoting internal conflict that was used by spokespersons of the anti-chavista groups as an opportunity to ask for intervention in Venezuela and stage a coup against President Nicolás Maduro.

The events presented above may be understood as rehearsals and actions to measure the response capacity of the Venezuelan State vis-à-vis a paramilitary-style of war. However, the expected acts of treason and the expected coup d’état by national military forces against President Nicolás Maduro failed to happen.

THE PARAMILITARY PLOT DEVELOPS IN COLOMBIA

The real purpose of such events was not raising funds or the introduction of aid into Venezuela. Instead, it was an action to exert maximum pressure on the Venezuelan authorities, especially on its military forces. Prior to this date, then U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton openly promoted acts of sedition in Venezuela’s military forces.

The strategy was endorsed by Donald Trump himself who has said that the time was running out for Venezuelan militaries, who should abandon Maduro. The U.S. government proposed that date as the deadline for Venezuelan militaries to allow the humanitarian aid to enter Venezuela, thus disobeying President Maduro’s instructions.

Juan Guaidó “ordered” the militaries to open the borders, since what was at stake was not that trucks with alleged “humanitarian aid” may enter the country but the break of the command lines in the country and generate a clash among the Venezuelan armed forces.

But the Venezuelan militaries did not give in to the pressures exerted by Guaidó and the United States. The trucks with the fake humanitarian aid failed to enter Venezuela from Colombia. Civilians on the Venezuelan side of the border repelled the violence by anti-Chavez demonstrators who intentionally burned the loaded trucks on Las Tienditas border bridge.

In those days, defections of some Venezuelan mostly low-rank militaries and police officers took place. They crossed the border to place themselves under Juan Guaidó’s orders in Colombian territory. The number of defections reached 200 men – a really meaningless number if compared to the 300,000 active militaries in Venezuela.

Once the actions failed, Juan Guaidó returned to Venezuela but the defectors remained in Colombian territory under the care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Colombian authorities.

It was at that time when plans and steps began to be taken to design and materialize armed actions against Venezuela in Colombia. The former Venezuelan military and police officers stranded in that country joined training camps organizing and executing actions in Venezuelan territory.

VENEZUELAN MILITARY AND POLICE OFFICERS STRANDED IN COLOMBIA JOINED TRAINING CAMPS ORGANISING AND EXECUTING ACTIONS IN VENEZUELAN TERRITORY.

Colombia had already lent its territory for the execution of actions like the one of August 5, 2018, as President Nicolás Maduro, a large number of authorities of the Venezuelan State and the Diplomatic corps endured a failed assassination attempt with armed drones. The Venezuelan intelligence services dismantled the operational cells and the inquiry found out that said actions were organized in the Colombian territory, a fact that would be later confirmed by CNN11 in an interview of the head of the operation. The defector confirmed that they had been training in a private estate in Chinacota, in the North of Santander, Colombia.

A few weeks after the violent actions in the international bridges in the border between Venezuela and Colombia, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations Organization, Ambassador Samuel Moncada, denounced12 before the UN Security Council that a “liberation army” was being created by mercenaries to ravage the country.

“Spokespersons [of the U.S. president] Donald Trump’s administration are fabricating in this moment a narrative about an absurd amount of alleged defectors of our Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB, Spanish acronym), for purposes of justifying the creation of an alleged Liberation Army of Venezuela in Colombian territory with the intention of penetrating our country and destroy the peace of our nation,” he argued.

Moncada stressed that such actions were not about the “public use of the military force but rather its clandestine use,” with mercenaries “in the same way as it was executed in Nicaragua in the cruel Contras war (in the ’80s)” to legitimize it as a salvation army.

On September 28, 2019, the Vice President of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez, denounced before the UN and its General Assembly that mercenaries and “terrorists” were being trained in Colombia. Rodríguez said that “mercenaries are being trained to attack Venezuela” in Colombia.

The international community turned a deaf ear to these serious allegations when, indeed, such events are extremely dangerous for regional security. The participation of the United States and Colombia in the construction of an irregular army would have the objective of producing an escalation of violence in Venezuela with the intention of leading the country to a large-scale confrontation.

THE FAILED “OPERATION FREEDOM”

On April 30, 2019, Juan Guaidó planned the Leopoldo López’s escape from house arrest. With the complicity of a new group of traitorous Venezuelan militaries, the two leaders gathered on a bridge in the eastern quarter of Altamira, over the Francisco Fajardo Highway in the Miranda state in the capital region.

Both leaders hoped that the vast majority of the Venezuelan military would disobey the line of command and that high and middle ranks would join them, in order to give rise to a large-scale coup. However, the operation had already been detected by Venezuelan intelligence. The epic of these two politicians ended with the flight of Leopoldo López to the Spanish Embassy to Caracas and with Guaidó’s retreat who had failed once again.

Evidently, the intention of “Operation Freedom” was to initiate a large internal conflict, but it barely achieved the defection of some military personnel, including a captain named Antonio Sequea Torres.

The participation of the US government in these failed events was evident15, even more with the public confession made by Elliot Abrams who in the aftermath of the operation highlighted that “those who would deliver Maduro turned off their cell phones.”

THE MERCENARY WAR ON VENEZUELA WAS UNDERWAY AND THE US PROVIDED IT WITH A LEGAL FRAMEWORK

On March 23, 2020, the Colombian National Police, in the framework of an anti-guerrilla operation, seized “26 5.56 caliber AR-15 assault rifles and accessories for this type of weapons, such as eight silencers, 36 butts, 45 sight units and 30 laser sights. Also, three bulletproof vests, 37-night vision goggles, four binoculars, two communication radios with 43 batteries and 15 helmets were found, among other elements,” according to a report by W Radio de Colombia. The value of the arsenal was assessed in USD $ 150,000.

The weapons were destined for one of the three camps with Venezuelan ex-military and US mercenaries installed in Colombia. The defectors were training in three camps in Riohacha, Colombia, with U.S. support, said Venezuela’s Minister of Communication Jorge Rodríguez.

Former general and fugitive from Venezuelan justice Cliver Alcalá Cordones clarified that the weapons would be used to begin the “liberation of Venezuela”. He later confessed that they “were part of an agreement between him and Juan Guaidó with American advisers that were intended to be used in an operation against Nicolás Maduro.” Those weapons, said Alcalá, “belonged to the people of Venezuela.”

However, Washington proceeded to give legal form to what was obviously an irregularity and an attack on the law and regional security.

On March 26, the United States Attorney General, William Barr, filed drug trafficking charges against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, President of the National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello, Minister of Industry and Production Tareck El Aissami, Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino López and the president of the Supreme Court of Justice Maikel Moreno.

In the absence of solid evidence, Justice Department prosecutors have appealed to a propaganda product that for several years has been the spearhead in the communication attacks by the United States and Europe against Venezuela: the non-existent Cartel de los Soles (Suns Cartel).

According to the Department of Justice, “Since at least 1999, Maduro Moros, Cabello Rondón, Carvajal Barrios and Alcalá Cordones, acted as leaders and managers of the Cartel de Los Soles, or “Cartel of the Suns.  (…) to facilitate the importation of tons of cocaine into the United States.”  In this way, they proceeded to put a price of 15 million dollars for the capture of President Maduro. They placed a price for the members of the Venezuelan leadership, both civilians and the military, listed by the Department of Justice.

The accusations also linked the Venezuelan authorities to providing military, logistical and financial support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), thus configuring the criminalization of the Venezuelan government as a “narco-terrorist” organization.

The Department of Justice intends to hold Venezuela responsible for the flood of cocaine in the United States, even though it has been proven by its own anti-drug agency that the increase in consumption that affects millions of U.S. citizens lies in the uncontrolled production of Colombian cocaine.

THEY TRY TO POSITION VENEZUELA AS A “TRANSIT COUNTRY” FOR COCAINE IN THE UNITED STATES, ALTHOUGH THE DATA PROVIDED BY THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT ITSELF INDICATES OTHERWISE.

They are likewise trying to position Venezuela as a “transit country” for cocaine into the United States, although data provided by the US government itself indicates otherwise.

A report by the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA) concludes: “Around 90 percent of all U.S.-bound cocaine is trafficked through Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific routes, not through Venezuela’s Eastern Caribbean seas.

Despite these solid elements, for the Trump Administration, labeling Venezuelan officials as “narco-terrorists” acquire the functionality of outsourcing the armed route for the overthrow of the Venezuelan government. It is not really a war on drugs, it is about building a pretext to legitimize the construction of an irregular war and large-scale violent destabilization. The US government even announced the deployment of vessels in the Caribbean to allegedly fight drug trafficking from Venezuela.

Washington then proceeded to accelerate its covert actions in Venezuela. Cliver Alcalá was also listed by the Department of Justice, so he handed himself over to the U.S. authorities under the status of “collaborator.”

SILVERCORP USA AND THE FAILED MERCENARY INCURSIONS IN VENEZUELA

On May 3, the Associated Press (AP) news agency launched a media operation, which established a false but detailed account of the links of the mercenary contractor Silvercorp USA, owned by Jordan Goudreau, a decorated former green beret of the United States Army with Juan Guaidó, with the purpose of undertaking actions of terrorism, destabilization and assassination in the country.

AP established a narrative in an attempt to conclude that “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.”

The news agency emphasizes that the actions that Goudreau was organizing, from mercenary camps in Colombia, were part of a “private coup” with which the US government had nothing to do, that is, an exclusive initiative of Venezuelans and Silvercorp USA.

As a matter of fact, Jordan Goudreau showed videos where he talked with Juan Guaidó and published a contract clearly stating the terms and conditions whereby the United States would train, organize and arm mercenaries to act in Venezuela, a contract Guaidó would have breached.

An incomprehensible and inexplicable action, unless it is a communicational farce fabricated with the clear intention of ridding the American government of the criminal acts that would occur two days later.

AP and Goudreau’s remarks are unheard of, given that it is highly unlikely that US intelligence agencies were unaware of Silvercorp USA’s role and of the camps in Colombia. Likewise, the thesis that the US government simply allowed them to act on their own against one of their strategic objectives, such as the Venezuelan government, is a rather weak one.

In the early hours of May 3, a mercenary incursion was frustrated off the coast of Macuto, in the state of La Guaira. The Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace of Venezuela, Néstor Reverol, reported that the FANB along with the Special Actions Forces (FAES, Spanish acronym) of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB, Spanish acronym) counteracted a maritime invasion attempted by non-state actors on the coast. The official name of the defense operation was “Operation Negro Primero” after a significant hero of the Independence War.

As a result of the clash between Venezuelan authorities and the mercenaries, who opened fire on the security forces, eight mercenaries lost their lives and two others were captured. The surviving mercenaries declared that they were part of the so-called Operation Gideon.

In the afternoon of May 3, a video was posted on social networks where a former Venezuelan captain named Javier Nieto Quintero, involved in another paramilitary operation in 2004, appears next to Jordan Goudreau, head of the mercenary company Silvercorp USA.

In the video they say that Operation Gideon is deployed and activated in eastern, southern and western Venezuela, calling on the FANB to “join this feat” with the aim of “capturing” key members of the Bolivarian Government accused of drug trafficking by the United States.

Said cells would be one of several mercenary groups that would enter Venezuela by sea. This group was coordinated by Robert Colina, aka “Pantera” [Panther], another deserter from the Venezuelan army, who got killed that morning.

Minister Nestor Reverol stated that the foiled foray departed from Colombia. The GPS seized in the operation showed a route drawn from the Colombian La Guajira region heading to Venezuela with a stopover in Aruba.

In the morning hours, on May 4, in the coastal town of Chuao (state of Aragua) a group of eight mercenaries aboard a boat was captured in a joint effort between local fishermen, the municipal police and the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB).

Former captain Antonio Sequea Torres, Adolfo Baduel (son of former general Raúl Isaías Baduel, today imprisoned in Venezuela for corruption and conspiracy) as well as two U.S. citizens linked to Silvercorp USA, named Luke Alexander Denman and Erin Berry were all captured.

In theory, Sequea Torres, according to the video posted by Jordan Goudreau and Javier Nieto Quintero, would be leading the operation on the ground. His brother, also a participant in the terrorist operation, stated in an interview for VPI media, broadcast shortly before the capture of the second vessel in Chuao, that the operation generally had the support of Colombia and the United States, without providing any further details.

In theory, Sequea Torres, according to the video posted by Jordan Goudreau and Javier Nieto Quintero, would be leading the operation on the ground. His brother, also a participant in the terrorist operation, stated in an interview for VPI media, broadcast shortly before the capture of the second vessel in Chuao, that the operation generally had the support of Colombia and the United States, without providing any further details.

He stressed that the actions gained momentum, to a large extent, by the false accusation of narco-terrorism filed by the Department of Justice against Venezuelan leaders who hold high State offices:

“Such decree was issued by the United States, and even though our action was political in nature, they were based on what the United States has done with respect to Maduro, so we are talking about a police action. In other words, we do take into account the guidelines of the United States which is the origin of our actions as well.”

The Sequea brothers were part of a sort of first outpost and assured that more overwhelming actions would ensue.

The US government has said it has not participated “directly” in these events. The Department of State has added that “if involved, the result would be otherwise.” Mike Pompeo has also said that they will use “every tool” to achieve the liberation of the two US citizens captured in Venezuela.

This implies that this is, indeed, an open-ended situation. The development of a mercenary war in Venezuela could be replicating models, such as those that took place in Syria in the early stages of the war which still develops in that country. It was in Aleppo where Western-backed jihadist organizations undertook the forceful use of arms, through an organizational fabric made up of local paramilitaries, foreign mercenaries, and trained civilians.

Those captured in Operation Negro Primero have said that the “surgical” actions they intended to organize on Venezuelan territory included specific attacks against leaders of Chavismo, the kidnapping of President Maduro and the capture of an airport to send the President to the United States.

They likewise stated that money from Colombia drug cartels has been involved in financing Operation Gideon. It is the understanding of the Venezuelan government that the Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) is involved, along with Washington, Bogotá, and drug cartels.

IT IS THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT THAT THE DRUGS ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION (DEA) IS INVOLVED, ALONG WITH WASHINGTON, BOGOTÁ, AND DRUG CARTELS.

“We were able to uncover this terrorist incursion, knowing that the United States Government delegated in the DEA the preparation of this action and in SilverCorp company all its operational planning,” denounced President Maduro.

“The DEA contacted the drug lords and cartels in the Colombian Alta Guajira, and in the Venezuelan Guajira and other drug-trafficking groups in various states of the country, particularly Falcón, La Guaira, Caracas and Miranda,” he emphasized.

The President of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, stated that “one of the mercenaries captured declared to be a DEA official, participated in DEA operations in America, he is a Venezuelan citizen, as he h himself declared. We say it clearly: The United States, the Colombian oligarchy and drug cartels are behind this, “he stressed.

Some key pieces of evidence about the responsibility for these events lie in the controversial contract entered into by Juan Guaidó, along with members of his closest team and the US military Jordan Goudreau who insistently claim that Guaidó has failed to comply such contract.

It is noteworthy that on the afternoon of Sunday, May 3, the Venezuelan anti-Chavez journalist Patricia Poleo broadcast in her YouTube channel an exclusive interview with Jordan Goudreau34, who stated that Juan Guaidó would have signed a 212 million dollar worth contract with his company which included a retainer of 50 million dollars to train and equip mercenaries, a retainer that the National Assembly Representative would have failed to pay. Goudreau provided Poleo with a video that he recorded as he talked with Guaidó over the telephone, establishing agreements and signing the contract.

Poleo published images of pages of said contract the night of that Sunday reflecting the signatures of Juan Guaidó (as Venezuelan “Commander in Chief ”), Juan José Rendón (as “political strategist”), Sergio Vergara (as “high commissioner” of the president) attorney at law Manuel Returet (witness) and Jordan Goudreau (CEO of Silvercorp USA).

Cliver Alcalá publicly referred to the existence of said contract. Before surrendering to the US government, he questioned that the DOJ had listed him, alleging that they “were unaware” of the agreement to which he was a party by means of a “contract” “ with US officials ”, Juan Guaidó and Juan José Rendón.

President Nicolás Maduro confirmed the existence of the “contract”, the annexes of which were published by the Washington Post, in which Guaidó and Juan José Rendón, together with U.S. and Colombian individuals and mercenaries established a road map to carry out terrorist actions in Venezuela.

Said agreement, as mentioned by Cliver Alcalá and by President Maduro, was signed by Juan José Rendón in the capacity as Guaidó’s “political strategist”

In a CNN interview, Rendón admitted that he was a party to the agreement, but noted that Guaidó never signed it. He added that he did not know how Guaidó’s signature had arrived at the document. Rendón told CNN that the contract he signed was “exploratory” in nature, and consequently “it was never executed or perfected, this means that no progress was made in any of the preambles for it to become effective.”

Rendón admitted having paid Silvercorp USA some 50 thousand dollars out of his pocket in a preliminary phase of the contract entered into in its “exploratory” phase. But then Guaidó’s political strategist explains that Silvercorp USA acted on its own.

Associated Press has published that Guaidó and Goudreau established a relationship since February 2019 as Silvercorp USA provided services to millionaire Richard Branson in Colombia during the Venezuela Aid Live concert. Venezuelan authorities have referred to the existence of mercenary camps in Colombia and Jordan Goudreau has published videos showing his operating and training paramilitary personnel in Colombia. However, Rendón affirms that the contract never advanced.

Rendón affirmed that the contract was based “on an exploration to see the possibility of capturing and delivering to justice members of the regime who currently are subject of an arrest warrant,” as reported by the Americans captured in Venezuela. However, he emphasized that Guaidó had nothing to do with it. A narrative maneuver to keep Guaidó harmless. Rendón is known for being an expert propagandist and strategist for black campaigns in Venezuela and other Latin American countries.

The publication of the controversial contract clearly exposes the Venezuelan National Assembly Representative, who has earned a new inquiry against him by the Attorney General of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which has requested Interpol the detention of various actors in this plot, including Rendón and Goudreau.

Representative Guaidó’s political position seems increasingly compromised. It seems he is being sacrificed by the US, since it is virtually impossible for Goudreau to operate without any containment by the US government, which for more than a year has managed an entire institutional platform to support the Representative who self-proclaimed “president”.

  • Countries: Latin America