Lost in the other news is this story of a group of Americans who apparently tried to launch an attack on Venezuela’s government but the plot was foiled even before it got off the ground and the plotters, that included two former members of the US Special Forces, were captured by Venezuelan fishing villagers and handed over to the authorities. The similarities of this botched attempt at overthrowing the Venezuelan government to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba during the Kennedy administration in 1962 has led to the label ‘Bay of Piglets’ for this one.
Venezuelan security forces arrested dozens of people, including two Americans, after a beach invasion allegedly aimed at overthrowing President Nicolas Maduro – a plot said to involve US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Maduro held up a pair of blue US passports, reading off the names and birth dates on them in a nationwide broadcast on state television on Monday.
He showed images of the fishing boats the alleged attackers rode in on and equipment such as walkie-talkies and night-vision glasses. He blamed the attacks on the Trump administration and neighbouring Colombia, both of which have denied involvement.
“The United States government is fully and completely involved in this defeated raid,” Maduro said, praising members of a fishing village for cornering one group and netting the “professional American mercenaries”.
A Florida-based ex-Green Beret Jordan Goudreau told The Associated Press he was working with the two American men in a mission launched early on Sunday to “liberate” Venezuela. The operation left eight people dead at a beach near the port city of La Guaira.
He identified the two former US military veterans taken into Venezuelan custody as Luke Denman and Aaron Berry. The two served alongside him in Iraq and Afghanistan, Goudreau said.
Goudreau said the men were part of an mission called Operation Gideon.
“I’ve tried to engage everybody I know at every level,” Goudreau said of the attempt to help his detained colleagues. “Nobody’s returning my calls, It’s a nightmare.”
Goudreau said he signed a contract with the US-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to overthrow Maduro, which Guaido has denied. The opposition leader said he had nothing to do with Sunday’s raid.
Venezuela’s attorney general said the contract was valued at $200m and alleged he had seen Guaido’s signature on it.
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the Venezuela situation “has nothing to do with our government”.
“We’ll find out. We just heard about it,” Trump said when asked about the incident and the Americans’ arrest. The Pentagon later on Tuesday echoed Trump’s comments.
One of the captured Americans gave a confession on Venezuelan TV describing the plans.
In a heavily edited video confession, broadcast on Wednesday by the state broadcaster VTV, Denman said he had flown to Colombia in mid-January, where he was tasked with training Venezuelan combatants near Riohacha, a city 55 miles west from the Venezuelan border.
From there, Denman – who said he had never previously set foot in Colombia nor Venezuela – claimed the group planned to journey to Caracas to “secure” the city and the nearby Simón Bolívar international airport, before bringing down Maduro.
Denman said his mission had been to secure the airport, set up a perimeter, communicate with its tower and then “bring in planes” including “one to put Maduro on and take him back to the United States”.
“I thought I was helping Venezuelans take back control of their country,” Denman added.
There was no sign that any lawyers were present during Denman’s alleged confession, or that he was not speaking under duress.
Denman said he had been working for Silvercorp, a Florida-based private security firm run by Jordan Goudreau, a former US special forces soldier who on Sunday claimed his 60-man team had launched “a daring amphibious raid” designed to overthrow Maduro and “liberate Venezuela”.
Guaidó has denied any links to the incursion.
Maduro claimed Trump had “subcontracted” the “disastrous” invasion so as to be able to “wash his hands” of the episode if it went wrong.
The mission does indeed seem to have backfired quite spectacularly.
“They came to Venezuela thinking the people would greet them like some kind of Rambos, with applause,” Maduro said on Wednesday. “But the Venezuelan people … captured them, tied them up, and the police had to intervene so there were no acts of violence against them.”
Maduro claimed Venezuela’s justice system would decide whether or not Guaidó would be arrested.
In Washington, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the US would “use every tool” to get the two captured Americans back, and raised eyebrows by saying there was no “direct” US government involvement in the strange raid.
Of course there was no ‘direct’ US involvement. There never is in such cases. The CIA always creates layers of distance between the US government and its covert actions. Pompeo’s careful use of that word is a sign that the US was very likely behind this.