Operation Gideon – Failed Attempt to Overthrow Venezuela Regime

In early May 2020 a small group of approximately 60 men attempted to infiltrate Venezuela and stage a coup d’état. The former Venezuela military men were assisted by at least three former U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets.

The attempt failed miserably. There were at least two boats involved in the mini-invasion. Both were seized on the ocean along the Venezuelan coast. Eight people were killed in one boat with two captured. The other boat was seized with all on board captured. Several of the group were killed and some were captured. There may have been other boats involved. It is possible that some men were infiltrated by land over the Colombian border. Some of the coup participants may have already been in Venezuala.

Two Green Berets Captured

Two former U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets were captured in Venezuela. Both were former members of the 10th Special Forces Group. 10th SFGA is based at Fort Carson, Colorado with a battalion forward in Stuttgart, Germany.

The U.S. Army provided the service histories for the three Green Berets involved in Operation Gideon. This personal information has been widely reported by the primary news media organizations. [1] The three Green Berets served together in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group’s Crisis Response Force (CRF) or C-1-10. The two former Special Forces NCOs who were captured carried in various forms of identification on the mission to include passports, CACs, Veterans ID cards, and more.

The Conspirators: Real, Alleged, and Mentioned

Jordan Boudreau. The central figure in this attempted invasion of Venezuela was Boudreau – another former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier. He served on active duty with Special Forces as a medic. Apparently, he also served with the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves for three years in the mid-1990s while studying computer science at the University of Calgary. He deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan; two times to each country. He was a graduate of Ranger School and the Special Forces Qualification Course and attained the rank of SFC. His awards included three Bronze Star medals and the CIB.

Boudreau was born in Canada but is an American citizen. While he spent several years in the U.S. Army, he never stayed for twenty years and did not qualify for a retirement. Boudreau ran into some legal issues while in the service. Some news reports say the legal problems prevented him from a retirement while other reports say he had a medical condition from a parachute injury. [2]

According to some of the biographical news on him he had difficulty adjusting to civilian life – couch surfing with friends or living ‘on the road’. A recent plan to sell the services of military veterans to schools to stop mass shooters fizzled out. At age 43, he likely thought that the payoff from a successful coup in Venezuela would be his big break.

Plagarism. There are several news reports that say Jordan Goudreau lifted entire passages from the website of the Department of Homeland Security as well as one run by a crisis management firm. The website for Goudreau’s Silvercorp USA firm seems to borrow from inspirational speaker Tony Robbin’s as well. Apparently Goudreau also had a gmail account that ended with “007”. Read “Ex-Green Beret behind Venezuala raid suspected of plagiarism”, Military Times, May 7, 2020.

Airan Berry. One of the captured Green Berets, Berry, served as a Special Forces engineer sergeant. He had three deployments to Iraq and one to Kosovo. He was a graduate of Ranger School, SFQC, CDQC, and SF Dive Sup Course. He was awarded two Bronze Star medals, CIB, EIB, and other awards.

Luke Denman. The other captured Green Beret, Denman, served on active duty as a Special Forces communications sergeant and then later served in the Army Reserves. He deployed to Iraq in 2010. His awards included the Army Commendation Medal, SF Tab, Parachutist Badge, and CIB. Denman had received aircraft pilot training at Texas State Technical College. In a video released by the Venezuelan government Denman said he started working for Silvercorp USA in early 2020. He had first met Goudreau while serving in the Army in Germany. His job on the mission was to provide mission planning and training to the rebels in Colombia during the mission preparation phase. He reportedly was to earn between $50,000 to $100,000 for his participation in the mission.

Political Opposition. According to Boudreau the leading opposition leader, Juan Guaido, and his representatives signed a $213 million contract for the services of his firm – Silvercorp USA. An associate of Mr. Guadio has said the contract was terminated within days after it was signed in early November 2019.

Global Governments. According to Boudreau a D.C. firm was involved in the plot. The firm has denied involvement and says that Silvercorp USA is not and has never been a client of its firm.

Ex-Venezuelan Military

The members of the planned 300-man force were to come from former members of the Venezuelan military. A few had participated in prior rebellious events. However, most were men who had made their way to Colombia and were recruited among the masses of Venezuelans seeking to flee the corrupt repressive regime and the dire economic circumstances. Many of these rebel group members were led to believe that the U.S. was backing the coup attempt. The presence of former U.S. Green Berets in the training camps certainly helped with that understanding.

Concept of Operation

There were several phases in the operation.

Planning and Coordination. The first part was planning, preparation, and coordination. This involved lining up sponsors to invest in the project and attaining the military equipment and supplies to conduct the operation. This included weapons, ammunition, medical supplies, satellite radio time, and enough food and water to last 30 days. [3]

Training. The small band of former Venezuelan soldiers were gathered in three small camps in La Guajira state in the northeastern part of Colombia. The numbers under training were reported to number almost 300 but some members left the training prior to the invasion. They had been training since 2019. According to some news reports the training was led by dissident Venezuelan Major General Cliver Alcala.

Execution. The first phase in execution involved the landings by boat (apparently there were two boats) on a peninsula in Venezuela’s Aragua state. Then came taking control of an airport in Caracas so that the captured Venezuelan President could be spirited out of the country on board a plane. It was assumed that the 60 men infiltrated into Venezuela would be the catalyst to inspire the military and police to join in opposition to the socialist regime.

Timeline

  • April 2019. Goudreau attends a meeting in South Florida with opposition representatives. He was invited to the meeting by the former bodyguard of President Trump – Keith Schiller.
  • Spring 2019. Goudreau requests a meeting with opposition leaders. At the meeting, Goudreau and several other Americans, presented his initial plan for Venezuela. A former Venezuelan military officer put Goudreau in contact with Major General Cliver Alcala.
  • Summer 2019. Initial planning and training is reported to have been taken place in Jamaica. [4]
  • August 2019. Goudreau approaches his former business partner and friend with a proposal to line up investors for his Venezuela venture. A meeting was held in Colorado with investors that decided they were not interested. [5]
  • Fall 2019. A $213 million contract is signed by opposition leader for Silvercorp USA services.
  • November 2019. The contract with the political opposition is terminated.
  • Late 2019. Originally 300 former Venezuela military members were to be trained to take part in the coup. The final number that actually took part is closer to 60.
  • March 23, 2020. Cliver Alcala was arrested on March 23, 2020 by the Colombian Army and military equipment seized. He was quickly removed from Colombia by U.S. authorities transported to the United States.
  • April 1, 2020. President Trump announces that U.S. Navy and Air Force units would be undertaking anti-narcotics mission in the waters around Venezuela.
  • May 3, 2020. Eight fighters are killed on a boat along the coast of Venezuela. Two were captured. The boat attempted to land on a beach near the port city of La Guaira.
  • May 3, 2020. A second boat runs low on fuel and is awaiting a resupply boat based in Aruba to replenish it with fuel. This boat had an initial encounter with maritime Venezuelan elements on Sunday. The men on this boat were depicted in photos handcuffed and lying prone in a street.
  • May 4, 2020. The second boat is seized along the coast of Venezuela near the fishing village of Chuao. This boat included the two captured Americans.

Security Leaks

Movement Infiltrated. According to Venezuela government authorities the rebel group had already been compromised prior to the operation. According to the authorities their intelligence organization had penetrated the group with informers. The extent of the monitoring included, according to government officials, actually pay for some of the early coordination meetings to take place. The Venezuelan intelligence services are advised and trained by Cuban intelligence professionals.

AP Story. A few days before the coup attempt the news of the impending mini-invasion was publicized in an Associated Press news story. The coup leaders decided to go with the project despite it being publicized around the world. See “Ex-Green Beret led failed attempt to oust Venezuela’s Maduro”, by Joshua Goodman, Associated Press, May 1, 2020.

Announcing Your Invasion on Social Media – It’s a Technique. Boudreau and other leaders of the coup announced the invasion on social media as the boat teams were making their way to Venezuela. This the security forces in Venezuela were already on high alert. Messages and videos were posted to Twitter and YouTube about the invasion.

Cuban Intelligence Assistance. The failed coup attempt may have been penetrated by Venezuelan operatives working for government intelligence agencies. They were likely trained by Cuban intelligence officers.

Working With the Opposition?

Alleged Contract. According to the head of Silvercorp USA opposition leader Guaido and his advisors signed an eight-page general services agreement in October 2019 worth $213 million. According to Goudreau no money has been paid on the contract. Money paid, had the coup been successful, was to come from proceeds of future oil sales. The signature by ‘acting vice president’ Juan Guado may be valid; but some observers suspect it was a forgery used to garner support for the operation.

Members of Venezuela’s opposition, backed by the U.S. government, admitted to meeting with the Silvercorp USA president but they soon broke off relations with him. [6]

The Aftermath

Eight Dead and Many Captured. As of mid-May there were eight dead coup participants and (as of May 10) about 34 captured. Over 100 suspected coup supporters have been arrested.

Search is On. Naturally the Venezuelan government is now focused on rolling up the up opposition members associated with the coup attempt. Some people to be apprehended may be active participants (part of the 60 member raid force or auxiliary supporters) while others may be political supporters of the small rebellion force. Russian soldiers are operating drones over Venezuela as part of a search operation for the remaining members of the paramilitary force that have not been captured.

Americans On Trial. The two former U.S. soldiers will soon have their day in court. They will likely be jailed for an extremely long time as they have confessed on video to the operation and the evidence is overwhelming. The Americans will likely be charged by the Venezuela government with terrorism, arms trafficking, and conspiracy.

U.S. Government’s Response?

Quick Denial. The U.S. government was quick to deny any involvement in the abortive raid into Venezuela.

“The United States government had nothing to do with what’s happened in Venezuela the last few days.”

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Pentagon press briefing, Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

What Can the U.S. Do? There is a lot of speculation about what the U.S. government can and should do. Certainly it can do something to assist the two captured Americans; but there are constraints. The U.S. State Department has a webpage on this topic entitled Arrest or Detention of a U.S. Citizen Abroad. Secretary of State Pompeo has called for the release of the Americans by the Venezuela government.

Arms Trafficking Investigation. Jordan Boudreau is subject to an investigation into violating U.S. law for trafficking in weapons to a foreign nation. This investigation is in the initial stages.

Violation of the Neutrality Act. The former Green Berets are potentially liable for the violation of the 1794 Neutrality Act. Key to whether the former SF soldiers can be prosecuted depends on if Guaido (who the U.S. recognizes as the President of Venezuela) had authorized the Silvercorp USA employees to conduct the mission. If he hadn’t, then the operation was very likely in violation of U.S. and international law. Another factor is if any planning, preparation, or training took place within the United States. [7]

Strained Relations Between Countries

There is no U.S. embassy operating in Caracas. All consular services were suspended in March 2019. In December 2019 the U.S. updated its travel advisory for Venezuela. The advisory cited “crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens”. In addition, it said that there are “. . . shortages of food, electricity, water, medicine, and medical supplies throughout much of Venezuela.” The Swiss Embassy in Caracas is acting as an informal representative for U.S. interests.

Situation in Venezuela

The socialist nation is in the middle of an economic collapse. Unemployment is rampant, crime is high, inflation is extremely high, and there are food shortages. The medical system within the country is broke. [8] The country of 30 million people is mired in poverty despite being a nation that exports oil. There are constant electrical power blackouts, and the medical system is failing.

President Maduro is accused of ‘stealing’ the 2018 election. He has prevented his removal from power by a repressive campaign against his opponents. The tools of kidnapping, assassination, and torture are used by his police, intelligence agencies, and military.

**********

Footnotes:

[1] See “Here’s the career info for the former Green Berets involved in Venezuela raid debacle”, Military Times, May 7, 2020.

[2] For more on Boudreau’s background read “The fantasy life of Jordan Goudreau”, by Gwynne Dyer, Orangeville Citizen, May 15, 2020.

[3] See “Ex-Green Beret pitched Venezuela plot to Colorado investors last year, claiming links to Trump insider and DC consultants”, Military Times, May 8, 2020. A former Army colleague and business partner, Drew White, provides some background on Boudreau and the early planning stages of Operation Gideon.

[4] See “Ex-Green Berets tried to recruit this vet for a failed coup. Now he’s speaking out”, ConnectingVets.com, May 5, 2020.

[5] See “The mind-blowing story of the ex-Green Beret who tried to oust Venezuela’s Maduro”, NBC News, May 8, 2020.

[6] Cuba has a very professional and sophisticated intelligence service that has been assisting the government of Venezuela. Read more in “How Cuba’s Spies Keep Winning”, The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2020.

[7] Read more in “Did Former Green Berets Violate the 1794 Neutrality Act by Invading Venezuela?“, Lawfare Blog, May 8, 2020.

[8] See Health Infrastructure Breakdown in Venezuela, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Reference:

May 6, 2020. “Here’s the career info for the former Green Berets involved in Venezuela raid debacle”, Army Times.

May 5, 2020. “The Invasion of Venezuela, Brought to you by Silvercorp USA”, bellingcat.com. An article by Giancarlo Fiorella gives a vivid description of an operation gone wrong.

Videos:

May 6, 2020. Luke Alexander Denman on video being interviewed while in captivity. Broadcast by Multimedia VTC. This is a Venezuelan state-media video released to the media at large.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcUC6k3vjQw


About SOF News 1138 Articles
SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.