Mérida, May 3, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities announced they routed an armed group attempting to land on Venezuelan shores on Sunday.
The incident reportedly took place in the early morning hours, with armed men on speed boats approaching coastal La Guaira State, just north of Caracas.
“A group of terrorist mercenaries, organized and trained in Colombia, tried to disembark with war material off the coast of La Guaira,” a statement released by the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) read.
The statement detailed that intelligence work, as well as defense exercises, allowed the FANB and police units to respond immediately. In the ensuing confrontation, eight members of the paramilitary group were killed, the FANB added, and two were arrested. There are no reports of casualties on the Venezuelan side.
The operation also resulted in the apprehension of military gear and weapons, allegedly matching equipment stolen in the failed April 30, 2019 military putsch. The armed forces likewise revealed that divers are currently being deployed to recover additional weapons and that Navy ships are patrolling the coastline in search of other vessels involved in the incursion.
“The Bolivarian National Armed Forces categorically rejects these irrational acts of violence,” the statement went on to say.
Speaking to the press on Sunday, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said that the defensive operation was ongoing and there could be further arrests in the coming days.
Padrino also announced that a new set of “Bolivarian Shield” military exercises will begin immediately on orders of President Nicolas Maduro.
For his part, National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello divulged that weapons had been seized on land, including vehicles fitted with machine guns. The location of the equipment was not disclosed. He also claimed that the boats’ GPS trackers indicated they had departed from Colombia.
Sunday’s failed incursion came on the heels of an Associated Press report revealing that former US Special Operations soldier Jordan Goudreau had played a leading role in a plan to invade Venezuela led by retired Venezuelan Major General Cliver Alcala. Goudreau was responsible for training a contingent of 300 Venezuelan army deserters who were to enter Venezuela in a heavily armed caravan and seize the capital within 96 hours.
Both the Venezuelan opposition and the Colombian government were reportedly aware of the plot.
In a video released on social media, Goudreau confirmed that the amphibious landing attempt had been launched from Colombia as part of “Operation Gideon” and that “other units” were active in the “south, west, and east of Venezuela.” He appeared alongside retired National Guard Captain Javier Nieto Quintero, who claimed that the operation aimed to “capture” high-ranking officials and “liberate” the Venezuelan people.
Nieto spent 18 months in prison starting in 2004 for alleged connections to Colombian paramilitary groups before leaving the country. In a press conference in Florida in October 2019 he announced the creation of a “Military Command,” made up of former officials, with the stated goal of setting up an armed force to back a “transition government.”
A video of purported participants in “Operation Gideon” was likewise released on Sunday. A man identifying himself as Antonio Jose Sequea, whom Goudreau identifies as the commander of the operation, appears on a beach flanked by heavily armed soldiers. Sequea is additionally seen with a blue armband similar to those worn by mutinous FANB soldiers who took part in last year’s failed April 30 putsch led by opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Among the other soldiers cameoed in the video is National Guard Captain Robert Colina, aka “Panther,” who reportedly died in the operation. In March, the Venezuelan government accused Colina of planning the assassination of top Caracas officials as part of Alcala’s Colombia-based paramilitary activites. Sequea was also identified at the time as a participant in the April 30 coup attempt.
For his part, opposition leader Guaido issued a statement Sunday afternoon dismissing the operation as a “false flag” allegedly perpetrated by the Maduro government. Guaido declared himself “interim president” in January 2019 with US backing but has since faded from the spotlight following repeated failed attempts to oust Maduro.
Guaido has yet to comment on Goudreau and Nieto’s video announcing the military operation.
The former National Assembly president had previously denied any connection to Alcala and Goudreau. For his part, Alcala claimed that a contract had been signed with Guaido, opposition strategist J. J. Rendon, and “US advisors.”
However, Miami-based Venezuelan journalist Patricia Poleo published a document Sunday evening, which she purported to be a copy of the contract. Poleo interviewed Goudreau, who produced a document with Guaido’s signature, which contracts Goudreau’s company Silvercorp to provide services, including “strategic planning,” “equipment procuring” and “project execution advisement,” for a fee of US $213 million.
Poleo also released several recordings of an alleged conference call between Guaido, Goudreau, and senior Guaido envoy Sergio Vergara, in which they agreed to sign the contract.
During the interview, Goudreau accused the Venezuelan opposition of not fulfilling their end of the contract, but that the operation (“Gideon”) had gone ahead.
With additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Santiago de Chile.