01:08 GMT30 November 2020
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    A group of Venezuelans and Colombians led by two ex-US servicemen was captured by Venezuelan forces in May 2019 as they attempted to covertly enter the Latin American country to kidnap its president and overthrow the government in favour of opposition figure Juan Guaido.

    Several members of the Trump administration were aware of plans for Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro to be kidnapped by forces of the Venezuelan opposition and the private American security company Silvercorp USA, its founder, CEO, and  former Green Beret Jordan Goudreau claimed in an exclusive interview with the Miami Herald. Goudreau has made the same allegation in a $1.4 million breach-of-contract lawsuit that he filed against Juan Jose Rendon, a political consultant purportedly working with Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido, who was allegedly among those who hired Silvercorp to kidnap Maduro.

    Did VP Pence Give the Go-Ahead for the Venezuelan Coup Attempt?

    Goudreau claims he discussed the plans to overthrow Maduro and to arm Venezuelan "exiles" for that purpose with two administration officials, and alleges he was assured that the initiative, called Operation Gideon, was backed at the highest level in the US. Among the people whom the Silvercorp CEO named were Andrew Horn, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence and who is currently working at the office of the director of national intelligence, and Jason Beardsley, an adviser at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Kingsbury Hall on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City
    © AP Photo / Julio Cortez
    Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Kingsbury Hall on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City

    In addition to this, one of the people funding the coup, heir to the Kraft cheese-making family Roen Kraft, claimed in a conversation with Goudreau that he had discussed the plans with Mike Pence himself, according to the Silvercorp USA CEO's account of events and a screenshot of his communications with Kraft.

    "According to Kraft, Vice President Pence stated that he was very interested in the project and that as soon as it was successful, ‘all doors would be open’", Goudreau claimed in the lawsuit against Juan Jose Rendon.

    The Silvercorp chief went on to claim that he had met Andrew Horn on several occasions to discuss the Venezuela coup, with Horn assuring Goudreau that the licenses from the US government needed to procure weapons for the operation "were forthcoming". He even purportedly suggested that Goudreau would be able to discuss the matter with President Donald Trump at some point.

    "Drew Horn originally wanted to set up a meeting between myself and Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago […] a direct face-to-face but that never happened. The expectation [from Horn and Beardsley] was that we were gonna help facilitate, to help flip the country", the Silvercorp USA CEO shared.

    Neither Horn nor Beardsley has commented on the head of the private security company's allegations. The spokesperson for Vice President Mike Pence has strongly denied the allegations made by Goudreau and stated that Pence isn't familiar with Horn at all. An anonymous source in the administration told the Miami Herald that Horn had merely been a detailee on Pence's domestic policy team and that his responsibilities were not related to matters of national security or Venezuela.

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gives a press conference at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 12, 2020.
    © AP Photo / Matias Delacroix
    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gives a press conference at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 12, 2020.

    According to Goudreau himself, he decided to come forth with the revelations regarding the alleged involvement of the US administration in the coup because he feels "abandoned and scapegoated", as the FBI currently is seeking to detain the man in relation to his involvement in the Venezuelan coup.

    Botched Kidnapping of Maduro

    The plot to kidnap Maduro and overthrow his government in favour of opposition figure and US-recognised self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaido was revealed soon after its executors, a group of Venezuelans and Colombians led by two ex-US servicemen - Silvercorp members Airan Berry and Luke Denman, were captured by Venezuelan forces on 3 May 2019.

    © AP Photo / Patrick Semansky
    Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido reacts as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

    Goudreau later revealed that his company had taken part in the operation in accordance with an agreement signed by Guaido himself, Rendon, and Sergio Vergara, an alleged member of Guaido’s team. The Venezuelan opposition figure denies being a signing party to the agreement and claims that his signature was forged. However, the original documents presented by the Silvercorp CEO in the lawsuit detail a deniability clause enabling Guaido to deny his involvement if the operation were to go south.

    "If for any reason Project Resolution Operation does not succeed, President Guaidó will maintain deniability and be absolved from all knowledge and fault by all parties", the clause read, referring to Operation Gideon's original name "Project Resolution".

    Following the detention of the plotters, specifically the former US servicemen, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro accused the White House of orchestrating the attempt to kidnap him and extradite him to the US. Washington has long sought to oust Maduro, refusing to recognise the results of the last presidential election and demanding that he step down.

    In a bid to achieve its goals, the US resorted to imposing sanctions on the Venezuelan economy, which had already been suffering from a crisis and hyperinflation since 2017. The sanctions crippled the country's ability to sell oil abroad and buy equipment for its own refineries, resulting in fuel shortages in addition to the worsening economic crisis. Washington's actions, which were denounced by some countries such as Russia, Iran, and China, also limited Caracas' ability to access its gold reserves, some of which were stored in Western banks.  

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    Tags:
    Juan Guaido, Mike Pence, Nicolas Maduro, coup d'etat, failed coup, coup, US, Venezuela
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