Another attempt to overthrow the elected government of Venezuela, originating in the United States has failed, even before it began. And the trail leads back to President Trump and to the history of the CIA in Latin America.
On Monday, Venezuelan security forces captured a force of 60 armed men, employed of Silvercorp USA, a privare security firm, as they attempted to land at the seaside town of Chuao. Eight people were killed, according to the Venezuelan government. The prisoners are being held by SEBIN, the Venezuelan intelligence agency, according to Veneuzelan sources.
While the Trump administration and the Venezuelan opposition are denying any ties to the invaders, some connections have already emerged. On Sunday, Silvercorp USA’s Twitter account called President Trump’s attention to its already failing “incursion.” (Trump didn’t respond.)
According to Vice, Silvercorp USA boasted of doing security at a Trump rally in 2018. The Associated Press reports that Goudreau was introduced to Keith Schiller, President Trump’s longtime bodyguard, and accompanied him to a Miami meeting with representatives of Guaidó in May 2019.
The leaders of the U.S.-backed opposition ” knew of the covert force, even it they dismissed its prospects, ” according to AP.
This shambolic farce brings together various threads of Trump’s policy of “regime change” for Venezuela and links them, at least symbolically, to past CIA interventions in Nicaragua and Cuba.
First, there is the demand (shared by most Democratic presidential candidates) that the Venezuelan government must be removed by coercion. U.S policy toward Cuba in the 1960s and Nicaragua was based on the same demand. Even many opponents of the Maduro government reject this premise, seeking a negotiated solution, not one imposed by Washington.
Then there’s racist assumption that a Latin American military could not possibly be a match for a U.S.-backed force. That’s why the CIA invasion force was routed at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in April 1961. That’s why the CIA’a contra supply network was severed in Nicaragua in October 1986. Maybe Silvercorp USA was inspired by a new Jack Ryan video game about Venezuela.
Then, there’s recurring fantasy, peddled by Erik Prince, that U.S. foreign policy can be outsourced to mercenaries. The CIA attempted to do this in Syria, spending $1 billion supplying weapons to al-Qaeda-linked jihadists opposed to the Assad dictatorship. The CIA’s Operation Timber Sycamore failed utterly, and Trump did not take up Prince’s proposal.
The images of the captured Americans resemble nothing so much as the famous photo of Eugene Hasenfus, a CIA contractor who delivered arms to the Nicaraguan contras in 1986. When the Nicaraguans shot down his supply plane and paraded Hasenfus before TV cameras, the agency was exposed. The photo proved the agency was running an illicit resupply network in defiance of congressional prohibition on such aid. The Iran-Contra scandal broke a month later, and the Reagan presidency was never the same.
The obvious question–and it hasn’t been answered yet is–were these clowns working for or with the White House?
Planning for the incursion began after an April 30, 2019, barracks revolt by a cadre of soldiers who swore loyalty to Maduro’s would-be replacement, Guaidó, the opposition leader recognized by the United States and some countries. (The United Nations and other countries recognize the Maduro government). The uprising collapsed when Guaidó, a political novice appeared in public next to Leopold Lopez, a much-more controversial Venezuelan leader implicated in previous coup attempts in Venezuela.
Silvercorp USA regrouped by holding a meeting at a Marriott hotel in Columbia. One source quoted by AP called it a “Star Wars summit of anti-Maduro goofballs” — military deserters accused of drug trafficking, shady financiers and former Maduro officials seeking redemption.”
The ringleader was Jordan Goudreau, a three-time Bronze Star recipient in Iraq and Afghanistan, who was investigated (and not charged, he says) for defrauding the U.S. military on housing expenses.
After retiring in 2016, he worked as a private security contractor in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. In 2018, he set up Silvercorp USA, a private security firm, near his home on Florida’s Space Coast to embed counter-terror agents in schools disguised as teachers. The company’s website features photos and videos of Goudreau firing machine guns in battle, running shirtless up a pyramid, flying on a private jet and sporting a military backpack with a rolled-up American flag.
In other words, Venezuela came to be a place where Goundrea projected his fantasies. For a picture from a stadium in Colombia, Goudreau wrote the caption: “Controlling chaos on the Venezuela border where a dictator looks on with apprehension.” At the time, Goudreau was a security guard at a music concert.
Goudreau sounds like a delusional goofball. There’s no evidence the CIA was involved. But the Silvercorps USA fantasies about Venezuela involve the same mix of arrogance, racism, and magical thinking that have informed U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America under both Democratic and Republican administrations.