Ex-Green Berets Found Guilty of Conspiracy, Trafficking in Illegal Arms and Terrorism
(August 8, 2020) — A Venezuelan court sentenced two former US special forces soldiers to 20 years in prison for their part in a failed beach attack aimed at overthrowing President Nicolas Maduro, prosecutors announced late on Friday.
Former Green Berets Luke Denman and Airan Berry admitted to taking part in the May 4 operation orchestrated by a third ex-US soldier who remains in the United States, Venezuelan’s chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab announced on Twitter.
“THEY ADMITTED THEIR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FACTS,” Saab wrote, adding that the case will continue for dozens of other defendants. He did not offer details.
“Operation Gideon” was launched from makeshift training camps in neighbouring Colombia and left at least eight rebel soldiers dead while a total of 66 were jailed. Former Green Beret Jordan Goudreau, who operated a private, Florida-based security firm called Silvercorp USA, claimed responsibility for the failed attack.
Venezuelan prosecutors announced that Denman and Berry, both decorated former US service members, were found guilty of conspiracy, trafficking in illegal arms and terrorism.
The two Americans arrested in the coastal fishing community of Chuao have ever since been widely displayed by officials on Venezuelan state TV as proof of their long-held claims that the United States is set on overthrowing Mr Maduro‘s socialist government.
The incident also unleashed claims that US backed opposition leader Juan Guaido had authorised Goudreau through a signed agreement to carry out the attack, executed by two of Mr Guaido’s former political advisors.
Mr Guaido and US officials have denied any role in the attack. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would use all possible means to win the freedom of Denman and Berry.
A day before authorities announced that the two ex-Green Berets were sentenced, Venezuelan authorities opened the trial of six American executives of the Houston-based Citgo company. The six men were arrested over two years ago in Venezuela on corruption charges.
The case had lingered for months until former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson met personally in July with Mr Maduro in Caracas to urge they be released so they could return home to the United States.
Both play out amid hostility between Washington and Caracas. The Trump administration last year threw its support behind opposition leader Mr Guaido, who declared he was Venezuela’s legitimate president, vowing to oust Mr Maduro.
Mr Guaido blames Mr Maduro for the once wealthy nation’s economic and social collapse, while the socialist leader says Washington is manipulating Mr Guaido to steal the nation’s vast oil wealth.
ACTION ALERT: Investigate US Role in Failed Venezuela Coup
(May 8, 2020) — Trump’s unfolding war on Venezuela escalated this week with the capture of 2 American mercenaries who took part in a failed terror plot. We need to stop this war before it gets worse and the first step is getting Congress to ask hard questions.
A group of mercenaries and deserters, including two US citizens, attempted to carry out a terror plot in Venezuela last weekend. Despite the fact that the Trump administration has its fingers all over this, almost nobody in Congress has said anything.
We need to pressure our politicians to find out the extent to which Juan Guaidó and the Trump administration were involved. Guaidó has the full political, financial and logistical support of the US government.
Here’s what we know for sure: Guaidó signed a contract with a mercenary leader; some of the Venezuelans captured have direct ties to Guaidó; the captured US mercenaries said they planned to kidnap President Maduro and fly him out of the country; the US has a $15 million bounty on President Maduro; the US recently deployed the Navy fleet off Venezuelan shores; and the mercenaries have had contact with people very close to Trump.
It’s hard to forget the standing ovation that both Republicans and Democrats gave Guaidó during Trump’s 2020 State of the Union, so we probably shouldn’t expect too much from Congress. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t express how alarming this episode is. A few Senators — Murphy, Udall and Kaine — have already sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo demanding answers, but we need more.
The Trump administration wasn’t kidding when they announced their new strategy of “maximum pressure” back in March. Since then, the US has applied even more devastating sanctions, it indicted President Maduro and others on fake drug charges, it deployed the Navy and now this. That’s why CODEPINK has been pushing so hard for dialogue between Venezuela and the US–it’s the first step to peace!
In solidarity with the Venezuelan people,
Michelle, Teri, Leonardo and Medea
CODEPINK Latin America Campaign
am writing to express alarm over the attempted raid and terror plot in Venezuela on May 3, in which two Americans, both former Green Berets, were captured.
The details surrounding this attack are troubling, particularly as they seem to implicate Venezuelan opposition leader, and self-anointed “interim president” of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó.
Senators Chris Murphy, Tim Kaine and Tom Udal have written to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell to request answers. I urge you and your colleagues in the House of Representatives to do the same.
The Senators asked the following questions:
– Was the administration aware, either directly or through the Venezuelan or Colombian government, of the plans by Jordan Goudreau to instigate an armed attack inside Venezuela, and of his communication with advisors to Juan Guaidó in Miami?
– If the administration was aware of Goudreau’s plans, did you take any steps to prevent it from moving forward? Did the US government provide, directly or indirectly, any financial, material, training, intelligence, or other kinds of support to this operation?
– Goudreau has claimed that he is aware of additional forces in and around Venezuela ready to be activated as part of his effort to oust Maduro; what is the intelligence community’s assessment of the extent of his operation?
– What steps is the administration taking to secure the release of the two American citizens that have been captured by Maduro’s forces during the attack?
– Does the intelligence community assess the contract that Goudreau claims was signed by Juan Guaidó, or members of his “Strategic Committee,” is legitimate? If so, were steps taken to ensure that US funds were not implicated in this contract?
– Has the US government ever provided, directly or indirectly, financial, material, training, intelligence, or any other type of assistance to opposition-aligned actors seeking to carry out an armed operation in Venezuelan territory?
It should be noted that the answer to the last question is obviously “yes.” Juan Guaidó, who has the political, financial and logistical support of the Trump administration, attempted an armed operation in Venezuela on April 30, 2019.
I suggest asking these questions as well:
– What steps is the administration taking, whether direct or indirect, to promote dialogue within Venezuela?
– Given that this plot was allegedly launched from Colombia, what is the intelligence community’s assessment regarding whether the Colombian government was aware of, or played a role in, the operation?
– Given that current policy towards Venezuela includes sanctions that have devastated the Veneuzelan people, as well as a naval deployment that significantly increases the possibilities of a military conflict while achieving none of its stated objectives, is the administration considering changing its policy?
The Venezuelan people deserve to live in peace and to have economic stability. The political and economic crisis in Venezuela cannot be solved through sanctions, threats, covert operations or force. I urge Congress to press for dialogue between the US government and the government of President Nicolás Maduro, as well as for dialogue inside Venezuela.
PS: If the United States were a good neighbor, this operation would not have happened. Take the pledge to transform the US government into a good neighbor that works on the basis of peace, cooperation and respect!
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