In what is slowly being spun as President Trump’s version of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is insisting that two U.S. servicemen captured on Venezuela’s Caribbean coastline were part of a Washington-backed coup to remove him from power. But is this all part of an elaborate hoax to either garner international sympathy from a media ever-keen to take a swipe at America, or a distraction to avert the world’s attention from his own apparent drugs and arms trafficking?
During a televised denouncement, Maduro explained that a “terrorist” incursion had taken place in which eight people had been killed and 13 captured. Among the prisoners were two “American mercenaries,” named as Airan Berry and Luke Denman. He said that the men were employed by Silvercorp USA, a Florida-based security company.
An Open Admission?
Owner of Silvercorp USA, former U.S. Army Green Beret Jordan Goudreau, speaking to The Washington Post, admitted that the two men worked for him and were part of “Operation Gideon.” This operation, he claimed, was backed by Maduro’s political opponent Juan Guaidó who is, in turn, supported by the U.S. government.
So it’s a clear cut case, surely? Perhaps not. Guaidó denies any involvement, Goudreau’s story changes day by day, and perhaps the most curious aspect is what these so-called mercenaries were carrying with them as they attempted to invade a country and either capture or kill the president: their American passports.
Maduro waving the blue passports in front of the cameras as he denounced America for trying to overthrow him appeared to be Kabuki theatre at its finest. The admissions of the captives were reminiscent of communist show trials in which the accused would provide any statement the government demanded.
This story has all the makings of a false flag designed and perpetrated by a seven-year-old. One moment the attackers are supposedly set on infiltrating and teaming up with rebel forces to incite revolution; the next, they are a kill-team trying to take out one of the best-protected people in the world. Goudreau first says that his two men, along with other forces, had already entered Venezuela by both land and sea; he then claims that his men were running low on fuel along the Caribbean coast and that he had to try and arrange for them to be extracted. It’s a mess. A mess filled with contradictions.
What ex-Special Forces mercenaries would be caught carrying their real passports and run out of fuel on the way to a mission? It has the makings of a Hollywood slapstick comedy.
A Maduro Bluff?
Perhaps recent happenings in the U.S. can provide clues to what is behind this farcical event.
Oliver Alcalá, a former spy-chief and retired Venezuelan general, appeared in a New York court at the beginning of April to plead “not guilty” to helping Maduro flood the United States with drugs. Attorney General Bill Barr said at the time, “For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities.”
Maduro is accused of working with Columbian paramilitaries in a money-making scheme to hold up his regime. Allegedly, FARC rebels would traffic hundreds of tons of cocaine a year into the United States. The State Department has offered a $15 million reward for information that could lead to Maduro’s arrest and/or conviction.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this whole saga is the credulity with which U.S. media is treating Maduro’s claims. Yes, there appears to be evidence, but it is in the gaps that the truth will be found. Rather than dig deeper, pundits have decided to accept this story at face value, hedging their position by refraining from outright leveling accusations at President Trump. It suggests that they know the tale doesn’t pass the sniff test but are still keen to spin it for whatever it’s worth.
The walls are closing in on Maduro. Could this ridiculous encounter be nothing more than an attempt to distract the international community from coming together to end a reign of mismanagement and poverty? Or is a higher-stakes game being played by global intelligence communities?
Read more from Mark Angelides.