Former U.S. Special Forces Soldiers in Custody in Venezuela

Green Berets captured in Venezuela raid

NOTE: This is a developing story. This article will be updated as new information becomes available. Last update on 0730, Thu, 7 May 2020.

Captured Americans

According to the government of Venezuela two former U.S. Special Forces Green Berets were captured in a failed attempt to invade Venezuela. The abortive seaborne attempt to enter Venezuela by boat from Colombia took place on Sunday and Monday, May 3-4, 2020.

The two Americans have been identified as Luke Denman and Airan Berry. They were allegedly carrying their U.S. passports when captured. Photos of their passports, Veterans Identification Cards, CACs, and Silvercorp USA IDs are being displayed on various Twitter accounts, news reports, and videos. The Venezuelan government says that the two Americans were Special Forces veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war.

Numerous news reports say the two former Green Berets had been members of the 10th Special Forces Group. The 10th group is regionally focused on Europe – although they have deployed consistently to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past few decades. The 7th and 20th Special Forces Groups are regionally focused on Central and South America.

Operation Gideon

The Americans were part of a larger operation that had several moving parts. According to statements by an ‘advisor’ to the operation, Jordan Goudreau of Silvercorp USA, there are several raiding parties involved. Some were to enter the country by sea while others were to enter on land crossing over from Colombia.

The raids began before dawn on Sunday – one of them on a beach near the port city of La Guaira. There are rumored to be other small incursions that have taken place elsewhere in the country. The current assessment is that two boats were involved. One boat was intercepted at sea by the Venezuelan Navy resulting in eight dead and two captured. A second boat was seized the following day at sea resulting in the capture of eight – including the two Americans.

Goudreau maintains that there are 60 personnel involved in the ‘invasion’ so apparently there are other boats involved or possibly element(s) that moved overland from Colombia into Venezuela. Authorities announced the arrests of other individuals who they say are involved in the plot. They were seized along with weapons and communications gear.

The numbers involved in Operation Gideon may be over one hundred as there are apparently several incursions ongoing. The operation seemed to be designed to get elements of the Venezuelan military to revolt against the government. Apparently it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Captured Men and Equipment

Images on Twitter show the captured lying in a street face down with their hands tied behind their back. They were not in military uniforms. According to pictures released by the government they were outfitted with military gear to include weapons, combat vests, communications gear, night vision goggles, and ballistic helmets. The group is reported to have arrived in fishing boats – although some reports say speedboats were used. Thus far reports say eight have been killed and thirteen total arrested.

One of the captured men is National Guardsman Captain Antonio Sequea. He participated in a barracks revolt against the socialist regime in 2019.

Preparation for Operation Gideon

An earlier news report a few days back detailed an attempt by Florida-based Green Beret Jordan Goudreau to organize an invasion to oust the current leader of Venezuela – President Nicolas Maduro. [1] Goudreau has been working with a retired Venezuelan army general who is currently facing drug related charges by the United States. Some reports say that initial coordination occurred at the Bogata JW Marriott.

The invading force had been assembled and trained in three separate camps in Colombia. Jordan Goudreau’s firm Silvercorp USA had been conducting most of the training. The location of the camps are said to have been in the La Guajira Peninsula area of Colombia – located close to the Venezuelan border. Apparently the crucial step of conducting MDMP was a rushed event. Hopefully some of the training include SERE refresher course.

One of the shipments of weapons and supplies to the exiled group had been intercepted by the Colombian police. Included in the shipment were weapons, NVGs, radios, and other tactical equipment.

Intent of the Venezuelan Invasion

The intent of the operation is to capture President Maduro and liberate Venezuela. Goudreau says that the operation is still ongoing. He stated that operations are being conducted in the south, west, and east of the country.

About Jordan Goudreau

Jordan Goudreau

Goudreau is a former U.S. Army Special Forces medic. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some news reports describe him as a mixed martial arts enthusiast. He claims close ties with members of the Trump administration.

Goudreau’s security business is based in Melbourne, Florida. His firm, established in 2018, offers complex project leadership, unconventional planning, project development, integration, and execution, disaster mitigation, and special programs. Applicants interested in a career with Silvercorp USA can submit their resume here.

A quote from the home page of his website is below:

“When a crisis arises, the first thing people often look for is a leader: the person who knows how to solve the problem and will take the necessary steps to do so.”

Retrieved on May 5, 2020.

Info Ops Redefined

An unconventional warfare operation typically starts with an information operations campaign. One novel approach is to announce the start of an invasion the day you launch it. Posting videos and using Twitter are certainly techniques.

“Strikeforce incursion into Venezuela. 60 Venezualian, 2 American ex Green Beret @realDonaldTrump”.

Posted on SilvercorpUSA Twitter account, @SilvercorpUSA, May 3, 2020 (Sunday).

Jordan Goudreau appeared in recent video where he announced the beginning of the operation.

“A daring amphibious raid was launched from the border of Colombia deep into the heart of Caracas. Our units have been activated in the south, west and east of Venezuela.”

Jordan Goudreau, May 3, 2020

General Cliver Alcala

Deeply involved in this adventure is Major General Cliver Alcala. He is described as ringleader among former Venezuelan military officers opposed to the socialist regime. Goudreau had been working with the Venezuelan army general. Some press reports say that the organization had been penetrated by the Venezuelan intelligence network.

In early 2020 Alcala, a Major General in the military, was indicted by the United States as one of the members of a conspiracy to send 250 metric tons of cocaine each year to the United States. A $10 million reward was posted in March 2020 for information that would lead to his apprehension by the Department of State. The reward is offered under the Department of State’s Narcotics Rewards Program (NRP). He is currently in federal custody in New York awaiting trial.

Venezuelan Government Accusations

The president of Venezuela stated on Monday that the invaders were terrorists. He said that the raid was coordinated and supported by the U.S. and Colombian governments. The Venezuelan authorities said that the U.S. government is “fully and completely involved in this defeated raid,” according to the Associated Press. Up to 26,000 security force personnel have been ‘mobilized’ to search and apprehend any remaining members of the invading force. According to the government a total (as of May 4th) 114 suspects have been arrested.

The United States is supporting opposition leader Guaido. He has been a guest at the White House and is recognized as the legitimate leader of Venezuela by the U.S. and many other countries.

Opposition’s Role

The opposition leader, Juan Guadio, denies any involvement in the abortive coup. Guadio is recognized by the United States government as the legitimate interim President of Venezuela. However, it appears that there was some initial coordination between Silvercorp USA and Guadio representatives – although the ties were cut between the two prior to the invasion.

Goudreau claims that agreements with the opposition had been made for support that were not followed through. [2] Goudreau says he has an 8-page contract signed by an opposition leader for “general services” worth $213 million. His firm was to provide “strategic planning” and “project execution”. Up to this point Goudreau has not received any money from the contract.

U.S. Attempts to Topple Maduro

The U.S. State Department is not commenting on the affair other than to say it is not involved. Goudreau is a strong supporter of President Trump. On Tuesday morning (May 5th) President Trump said on the White House South Lawn in response to a question: “I just got information. Nothing to do with our government”.

The U.S. has been working diplomatically to remove Maduro from power but thus far he has remained the leader of the troubled country. Despite a number of actions taken by the U.S. it has been unsuccessful in toppling the Maduro regime. Economic sanctions have been imposed but have not led to a successful revolt by the people of Venezuela. the U.S. and Venezuela broke off diplomatic ties in January 2019 due to heightened tensions. There is no U.S. embassy in Venezuela. Read more on the U.S. position on Venezuela in Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela – Fact Sheet, Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State, March 31, 2020.

The U.S. recently labeled Maduro as a drug trafficker and has offered a $15 million reward for information leading to his arrest. He is accused of organizing the shipment of narcotics from Venezuela utilizing air cases within the country as well as ports along the coast. He is connected to the De los Soles drug cartel.

In addition, the U.S. recently doubled U.S. military assets in the Caribbean – primarily to bolster the drug cartel fight. The operation involves sending U.S. navy ships closer to Venezuela. The announcement of this increased operational tempo was made by President Trump – joined by SEDEF Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley.

“Corrupt actors, like the illegitimate Maduro regime in Venezuela, rely on the profits derived from the sale of narcotics to maintain their oppressive hold on power. The Venezuelan people continue to suffer tremendously due to Maduro’s criminal control over the country.”

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, April 1, 2020.

A Country in Crisis

The country has been undergoing a severe political and economic crisis. Food and medical supplies are scarce and public services are very limited. Running water and electricity are in high demand and not readily available. There are reports of starvation conditions among much of the population. Many Venezuelan citizens have crossed the border into Colombia seeking relief from the harsh economic environment in Venezuela.

Comparisons With Other Mis-Adventures

Some media outlets are comparing Operation Gideon with past failed coup attempts. In 1961 the Central Intellgence Agency supported the Bay of Pigs fiasco where Cuban expats invaded Cuba to start a counter-revolution against Castro’s communist regime. The attempt ended in failure – with many killed and capture. The U.S. suffered a significant embarrassment as a result of the ill-fated invastion.

In 1981 a group of mercenaries invaded Seychelles in a coup d’etat attempt. The 43 mercenaries attempted to fly into Seychelles International Airport with weapons smuggled in their luggage. That adventure fizzled out quickly when an airport security supervisor discovered an AK-47 in checked luggage.

There is also a higher level of interest among home entertainment viewers in the 2nd season of “Jack Ryan” found on Amazon.com. The season features CIA officer Jack Ryan heading to South America to investigate a potentially suspicious shipment of illegal arms in the Venezuelan jungle.

The Invasion Aftermath

A History Buff? Goudreau was questioned why he chose to launch an amphibious operation over open waters instead infiltrating by land across the Colombian border. His response:

“Are you familiar with Alexander the Great? The Battle of Gaugamela. Completely outnumbered. He struck to the heart of the enemy, and he won.”

State Department Assistance Requested. Goudreau has reportedly been in touch with a lawyer in Venezuela to work for the release of the two captured Americans. He has also reached out to the U.S. State Department for assistance.

Temporary Halt to Operations. Goudreau says that there are other teams inside and outside of Venezuela awaiting instructions and ready to move forward with the rebellion. The group has implemented a temporary halt to operations to redesign the future objectives of its units. [3]

Investigation by U.S. Jordan Goudreau is now under federal investigation for arms trafficking according to current and former U.S. law enforcement officials. The investigation is in its initial stages – it is unclear if charges will be made against Goudreau. [4]

Summary

This abortive raid – Operation Gideon – will likely emerge as a textbook example of how not to plan, prepare, and execute a raid into a country to initiate a rebellion. Over the next few days there could be some updates to the SERE curriculum at Camp Mackall, N.C.

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Footnotes:

[1] May 1, 2020, “Ex-Green Beret led failed attempt to oust Venezuela’s Maduro”, Associated Press. This earlier press report describes the efforts to mount a military style operation into Venezuela by Jordan Goudreau.

[2] May 4, 2020, “Venezuela: 2 Americans among those nabbed after beach raid”, Military Times.

[3] May 5, 2020. “Venezuelan insurgents regroup after internal leak compromises operations”, Miami Herald.

[4] May 6, 2020, “Sources: US investigating ex-Green Beret involved in Venezuela raid”, Stars and Stripes.

References:

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

May 6, 2020. Luke Alexander Denman on video being interviewed while in captivity. Broadcast by Multimedio VTC.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcUC6k3vjQw

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.

May 5, 2020. “Two Former Green Berets Arrested in Venezuela: Here’s What You Need to Know”, Coffee or Die Magazine. Joshua Skovlund provides more details on this failed operation.

Map: CIA


About John Friberg 148 Articles
John Friberg is the Editor and Publisher of SOF News. He is a retired Command Chief Warrant Officer (CW5 180A) with 40 years service in the U.S. Army Special Forces with active duty and reserve components.