Botched coup attempt in Venezuela raises a lot of questions

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS — U.S. President Donald Trump just fired the State Department inspector who was reportedly investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s use of his staff to walk his dog. By all means, let’s launch a full inquiry into that. And if Pompeo is guilty, rocket him into orbit on Elon Musk’s first manned SpaceX rocket in a few days.

Meanwhile, one of Pompeo’s political lapdogs has chewed through his harness. Venezuelan opposition politician Juan Guaido, who has enjoyed Pompeo’s encouragement in appointing himself “interim president” of Venezuela, now faces accusations of involvement in a failed coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro led by American mercenaries.

Two of Guaido’s associates signed a 42-page contract with a private U.S. security firm headed by a former Green Beret, then quit after their signatures were revealed. According to a document published by the Washington Post, the primary objective of the security firm, Silvercorp USA, was “To capture/detain/remove Nicolas Maduro,” then overthrow the rest of the government before installing “recognized Venezuelan President Juan Guaido.”

The operation didn’t exactly go as planned. Two U.S. mercenaries and their band of Venezuelan military deserters washed ashore in a Venezuelan fishing village with boats and night-vision goggles and were apprehended by members of the Venezuelan military. The two Americans now face charges of terrorism, conspiracy and weapons trafficking — and perhaps decades in prison.

The head of Florida-based Silvercorp, ex-Green Beret Jordan Goudreau, posted a video identifying himself as an organizer of the attempted coup. Goudreau has also been spotted in Trump rally footage, acting in what appears to be a security capacity. Trump’s longtime personal bodyguard, Keith Schiller, who also served as director of Oval Office operations, admits to meeting with Goudreau but denies any involvement in the attempted coup. So does Trump. So does Pompeo.

But one of the captured mercenaries, Luke Denman, can be seen in a video released by the Venezuelan government citing “President Donald Trump” in response to the question, “Who commands Jordan [Goudreau]?”

Guaido denies involvement, but the Miami Herald reports that just a few days before the coup attempt, Silvercorp USA sent Guaido and other members of his opposition party a letter demanding an overdue payment of $1.5 million for a contract signed in October 2019. The letter also cites a total contractual value of $212.9 million, “backed/secured by Venezuelan barrels of oil.”

Where on earth would Guaido’s gang get $212.9 million to pay mercenaries for over a year? The contract stipulates $50 million alone for the pre-invasion phase. Guaido doesn’t have that kind of cash on hand.

But you know who does have that kind of cash on hand, backed by Venezuelan oil? The U.S. government. In January 2019, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the U.S. “will continue to use the full suite of its diplomatic and economic tools to support Interim President Juan Guaido,” as the Treasury Department sanctioned Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

That allowed the U.S. to confiscate $7 billion in PDVSA assets, according to then-national security adviser John Bolton, “plus over $11 billion in lost export proceeds over the next year” from PDVSA subsidiary Citgo.

And speaking of Bolton, a pair of tweets by the regime-change-obsessed former Trump adviser have slipped largely under the radar.

On May 1, right around the time that the supposedly covert mercenary operation against Maduro was launching, Bolton tweeted: “To this day, the significant foreign military presence in Venezuela denies the will of the people. The strongest possible sanctions must remain until the peaceful transition of power and Juan Guaido, Venezuela’s rightful interim President and the Venezuelan people are firmly in control.”

Another Bolton tweet seems to suggest some kind of foresight: “Morning is coming to Venezuela — again.”

Perhaps if the U.S. government is serious about investigating who ordered the attempted coup against a sitting president, it could start by having a chat with Bolton after it gets to the bottom of Dogwalkgate. Or does anyone even care that some Americans tried to overthrow an elected head of state?

What actually did end up coming to Venezuela wasn’t the new dawn evoked in Bolton’s tweet, but rather a few dudes who’ve read too many issues of Soldier of Fortune magazine. These ill-fated mercenaries perfectly represent the distinguishing characteristics of U.S. foreign policy today: tone-deafness, blatant entitlement and overpriced ineptitude.