News & Politics

Leader of a Failed Coup Against Venezuela's Maduro Was an-Ex-Green Beret

AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

A ragtag group of 300 drug smugglers, anti-Maduro activists, and soldiers of fortune trained for months at camps in Colombia, planing to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist dictator, President Nicolás Maduro. They were led by an American — an ex-Green Beret who is either the dumbest soldier in U.S. history or the most opportunistic — he saw a big payday with little risk and took it.

The coup “plot” was exposed last month, ending the forlorn hope of anti-Maduro forces in Venezuela who thought they saw an opportunity to overthrow their oppressor.

But it was a mirage. In reality, this poorly-trained, poorly led, and inadequately-supplied rebel force never had a chance, to begin with.

Who in his right mind ever thought that this cockamamie scheme could succeed?

Associated Press:

The plan was simple, but perilous. Some 300 heavily armed volunteers would sneak into Venezuela from the northern tip of South America. Along the way, they would raid military bases in the socialist country and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in President Nicolás Maduro’s arrest.

What could go wrong? As it turns out, pretty much everything.

The American who ended up training the group was Jordan Goudreau, a thrice-decorated Green Beret who colleagues saw as a specially-gifted fighter. He owned a private security firm that specialized in infiltration and counter-terrorism operations.

But Goudreau’s head was in the clouds. He was an ardent patriot and a fierce opponent of the Maduro regime and after meeting with several Venezuela ex-pats, including an ex-Venezuelan general, Cliver Alcalá, who defected with a small group of deserters to Colombia, Goudreau agreed to train recruits.

But he dismissed concerns about Alcalá, who was indicted last month in a U.S. court for narcotics trafficking. Goudreau apparently ignored the warnings and set out to train his men, but with little in the way of supplies or rations. Associated Press:

“There was no chance they were going to succeed without direct U.S. military intervention,” said Mattos, the former Navy SEAL who spent two weeks in September training the volunteers in basic tactical medicine on behalf of his non-profit, which works in combat zones.

Mattos visited the camps after hearing about them from a friend working in Colombia. He said he never met Goudreau.

Mattos said he was surprised by the barren conditions. There was no running water and men were sleeping on the floors, skipping meals and training with sawed-off broomsticks in place of assault rifles. Five Belgian shepherds trained to sniff out explosives were as poorly fed as their handlers and had to be given away.

There was little operational security and the plan was easily sniffed out by the Venezuelan government.

AP found no indication U.S. officials sponsored Goudreau’s actions nor that Trump has authorized covert operations against Maduro, something that requires congressional notification.

But Colombian authorities were aware of his movements, as were prominent opposition politicians in Venezuela and exiles in Bogota, some of whom shared their findings with U.S. officials, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

True to his reputation as a self-absorbed loose cannon, Alcalá openly touted his plans for an incursion in a June meeting with Colombia’s National Intelligence Directorate and appealed for their support, said a former Colombian official familiar with the conversation. Alcalá also boasted about his relationship with Goudreau, describing him as a former CIA agent.

It’s going to take a lot more than a drug-dealing general and American patriot to overthrow Maduro. The dictator has the solid backing of top military leaders and most of the rest of the army. How does he do it? Simple; he feeds them and makes sure their families have enough to eat as well. The top generals are rewarded for their loyalty with lucrative positions in state-owned businesses.

Maduro has Venezuela locked up.