Mérida, May 17, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Opposition leaders have reportedly lobbied Washington to change its Venezuela policy and replace Juan Guaido as head of the anti-government bloc.
Bloomberg cited anonymous sources Friday claiming that opposition lawmakers have contacted the State Department to request “a change of direction, even leadership.”
Several sources told the wire service that the opposition should return to talks with the Maduro government, including regarding parliamentary elections scheduled for this year. Guaido has ruled out elections while Maduro remains in office as well as renewed negotiations with his administration.
Opposition lawmakers likewise stressed that “planning needs to be moved from Washington to Caracas,” arguing that Trump’s electoral calculus vis-a-vis Florida is driving the administration’s Venezuela policy.
Guaido proclaimed himself “interim president” in January 2019 with the backing of Washington and its allies. He has since led several unsuccessful attempts to oust President Nicolas Maduro by force, seeing his popularity steadily decline amid a series of scandals.
The internal challenges to Guaido’s leadership have increased in the wake of a failed coup attempt in early May. A 60-man paramilitary force organized by US special operations veteran Jordan Goudreau and retired Venezuelan Major General Cliver Alcala was quickly neutralized when attempting to disembark on Venezuelan shores.
The Venezuelan armed forces intercepted two speedboats on May 3 and 4, going on to arrest dozens. Following the latest arrest in rural Aragua State on Saturday, the total number of arrests now stands over 40, including former US green berets Luke Denman and Airan Berry.
On Friday, the Miami Herald said it obtained a letter from Florida-based law firm Volk Law addressed to Guaido, advisors J.J. Rendon and Sergio Vergara, US-based Guaido representative Carlos Vecchio and attorney Manuel Retureta. Venezuelan investigative blog La Tabla has published a copy of the document on Twitter
The April 28 letter is written on behalf of Goudreau and his company Silvercorp, demanding a US $1.5 million payment as part of a contract signed in October 2019.
“[T]he Administration of Juan Guaidó was supposed to pay Silvercorp USA an initial payment of $1.5 million Dollars within five days of the GSA being signed,” the document reads.
As detailed in the “general services agreement,” Silvercorp promised the “exit/removal” of the Maduro government in exchange for a $213 million payment, $1.5 million of which to be paid upfront.
The contract goes on to detail future “counter-narcotics” and “counter-terrorism” agreements with Silvercorp under a Guaido administration. Additionally, the paramilitary force was authorized to use deadly anti-personnel mines, strike infrastructure, as well as detain and use deadly force against civilians who “commit hostile acts or exhibit hostile intent.”
Rendon previously admitted that the opposition had hired Silvercorp but claimed he cut all contact with Goudreau after the ex-green beret failed to deliver on promises of 800 available men and other sources of financing. Apart from Rendon and Goudreau, Guaido and Vergara also appear as signatories in copies of the contract.
Guaido has denied any ties to Silvercorp, claiming that Rendon and Vergara pursued the operation against his orders. Both men resigned from their posts last week. However, questions remain regarding the possible role of Guaido, who apart from being named in the demand letter and his signature appearing on the contract, is listed in the agreement as “commander in chief” in the operation. The opposition leader was also seen in a leaked video of a conference call with Vergara and Goudreau immediately prior to signing the contract.
Washington, for its part, has denied any involvement in the operation, with President Trump threatening that US military action would take the form of “an invasion.” The US leader has repeatedly touted military intervention in Venezuela, while his aides have made frequent calls for the Venezuelan armed forces to topple the government.
Lucas Koerner reporting from Santiago de Chile and Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.