Venezuela: Operation Gideon Participants Handed 21- and 30-Year Sentences

The US-backed hardline opposition led by Juan Guaidó contracted the mercenary plot to overthrow the Maduro government in 2020.
operation gideon sentences
Operation Gideon meant to kidnap high-ranking officials and overthrow the Venezuelan government. (EFE)

Caracas, May 25, 2024 ( – A Venezuelan court has sentenced 29 people for participation in a 2020 paramilitary coup attempt.

The Caribbean nation’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab disclosed on Wednesday that the so-called “Operation Gideon” trial resumed this week. Following the presentation of closing arguments, the country’s top court on terrorism affairs issued its rulings against the 29 defendants.

Nine in the group received 21-year prison terms for criminal association and conspiring with a foreign government. Twenty others were handed 30-year sentences with additional charges of treason, rebellion, arms trafficking, terrorism and terrorism financing.

The defendants had been arrested between 2020 and 2021 along with dozens of others who were already sentenced. Venezuelan human rights groups have denounced that legal processes face recurring procedural delays.

“We are starting to close this dark chapter in the country’s recent history, when a group of Venezuelans conspired with foreign actors to conduct this mercenary operation with the goal of overthrowing the government,” Saab wrote on X/Twitter.

Venezuela’s chief prosecutor added that there are still outstanding arrest warrants for other people accused of involvement in Operation Gideon. “We are working to ensure that their criminal actions do not go unpunished,” Saab added.

In May 2020, the Venezuelan Armed Forces neutralized two speed boats carrying a 60-strong expedition featuring two former US Green Berets and Venezuelan deserting soldiers. An immediate firefight left eight paramilitaries dead and there were dozens of arrests in the ensuing days.

The operation codenamed “Gideon” had former Green Beret Jordan Goudreau as its main organizer. Retired Venezuelan Major General Cliver Alcalá was reportedly charged with training the military deserters in camps in Colombia and leading the forces into Venezuelan shores.

Shortly after the first boat was intercepted, Goudreau accused the hardline US-backed opposition led by former self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaidó of not fulfilling its end of a contract.

The leaked document, signed by Guaidó and his aides, had the opposition hire Goudreau’s Silvercorp to “plan and execute an operation to capture/detain/remove Nicolas Maduro.” US-based, pro-opposition journalist Patricia Poleo likewise released evidence of a conference call featuring Guaidó, Goudreau and other high-ranking anti-government figures.

While the “interim government” tried to distance itself from the floundered operation, Goudreau would later file a lawsuit against Guaidó associate Juan José (“JJ”) Rendón for breach of contract.

Operation Gideon would provide several more revelations in subsequent months through further arrests, interviews and media reports. Goudreau stated that US officials from the Trump administration had encouraged the coup attempt. A Vice News report from 2021 added that the CIA also had knowledge of the mercenary plot.

Airan Berry and Luke Denman, the two green berets arrested on Venezuelan soil, received 20-year sentences in 2020. Earlier this year, they were returned to US soil as part of a prisoner exchange that saw Washington free Venezuelan government envoy Alex Saab.