Former US Green Berets Reveal New Details Of Botched Venezuela Coup In Interrogation Tapes

Hamid Torabi Media Roundup 21 May 2020
Former US Green Berets Reveal New Details Of Botched Venezuela Coup In Interrogation Tapes

Detained US ex-soldiers said they were tasked with securing an airfield in Venezuela in order to put President Nicolas Maduro on a plane after toppling him. The men were charged with plotting a coup against the government.

Venezuelan state TV has aired new interrogation tapes of the two former US Green Berets charged with participating in failed plot to oust Maduro.

American national Luke Denman told an interrogator that Jordan Goudreau, a US special forces veteran and founder of private security firm Silvercorp USA, had proposed that he take part in removing Maduro from power between late November and early December of 2019. Denman did not sign any papers, but during a “casual conversation,” Goudreau provided him with “some vague mission guidelines” about training armed opposition fighters and “putting Maduro on a plane.”

“We were, for all intents and purposes, invading a country, taking military and police targets, and capturing the sitting president.”

Denman explained that he was tasked with training Venezuelans in neighboring Colombia and, after they had “secured their targets,” with securing an airfield to “put Maduro on a plane.” From there on, Denman was going to stay on the airfield to receive “incoming humanitarian aid” and await further instructions, he said.

During the interrogation, Denman also revealed that the code word ‘jackpot’ was used in the group’s notes to “talk about the person we’re after – either a hostage or a high-value target.”

When asked why the operation had started from an area dominated by drug trafficking, another detained American, Airen Berry, claimed that the group “didn’t understand or know that we would be travelling through this narco area.” He said that the route was known by renegade Venezuelan Army captains Antonio Sequea and Victor Pimenta (who joined in the planned coup and were then also detained) and “possibly” by US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Sequea previously told interrogators that Goudreau informed him that he had met Guaido at the White House during Guaido’s trip to the US.

Goudreau acknowledged to Reuters that Denman and Berry are “working” with him. US President Donald Trump, Colombia’s Foreign Ministry, and Guaido have all separately denied having any ties with the plot against Maduro.

The US openly supports Guaido, who was elected by the opposition-controlled parliament as ‘interim president’ of Venezuela in January 2019. Maduro has repeatedly slammed Guaido’s actions as illegal and has accused the US of plotting to oust him from power.

In March, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Maduro and several other former and current Venezuelan officials for corruption and “narco-terrorism” – the intention to “flood” the US with cocaine. The DOJ offered up to $15 million for information leading to Maduro’s arrest or conviction.

Nicolás Maduro’s security forces have continued their roundup of alleged participants in last week’s botched attempt to capture him, with the arrest of three Venezuelan men just west of the capital.

The trio was reportedly seized in Carayaca, 35 miles from Caracas in the early hours of Monday, taking the number of detentions to more than 40. The official Twitter account of Venezuela’s Bolivarian national guard claimed the men were “terrorists who entered the country intending to provoke violence”.

On Sunday the army chief, Remigio Ceballos, announced the capture of another eight “enemies of the fatherland” who were pictured kneeling down before a cluster of rifle-toting troops.

Eight people were reportedly killed when a group of about 60 mercenaries, including two United States citizens, launched their botched sea raid on 2 May.

'His head wasn't in the world of reality': how the plot to invade Venezuela fell apart

One of the captured American attackers, Airan Berry, last week claimed, possibly under duress, that the group had been tasked with raiding Maduro’s presidential palace and seizing a local airport in order to spirit him out of the country. Many of the group are reportedly being held in El Helicoide, Venezuela’s most notorious political prison.

The failed raid has proved a propaganda boon for Maduro, who has long claimed he was the subject of an imperialist, US-sponsored assassination plot.

Maduro has spent the last 16 months fighting off a challenge from the young opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who more than 50 foreign governments recognize as Venezuela’s legitimate interim leader.

The opposition leader Juan Guaido called the raid ‘regrettable’.

For Guaidó, who for a time last year looked poised to topple Maduro, recent events threaten to permanently derail his push for political change.

Guaidó has denied any involvement in the failed mission to capture Maduro. But two of his advisers, the Miami-based strategist Juan José Rendón and the opposition lawmaker Sergio Vergara, are alleged to have signed a $212m contract with Jordan Goudreau, the former Green Beret behind the raid.

Vergara and Rendón – who has admitted meeting Goudreau last year and paying him $50,000 in expenses – resigned from Guaidó’s team on Monday.

In his first interview since the incident, Guaidó tried to put on a brave face, insisting his campaign continued. “What happened last weekend,” Guaidó said, “was regrettable.”

But some suspect the opposition leader, from whom support has been gradually draining away, is running out of steam.

“I’m sure Maduro and his people are quite thrilled about the way this turned out. This really works for them,” said David Smilde, a Venezuela specialist at the Washington Office on Latin America.

“It just adds into this continual erosion of people’s perception of Guaidó as an effective leader, and they are thinking: ‘Well, maybe Maduro is not actually as much of a rube as we thought.’”