Last September, a group of former Venezuelan troops who had fled to neighboring Colombia trained and prepared for a daring mission: to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro — with the false hope of US government assistance.
Once inside the compound, the ex-soldiers, armed with US-provided machine guns and night-vision goggles, would capture Maduro and hold him until help from the Maracaibo team arrived. By that point, the hope was that many of Maduro’s forces would join the rebel cause and stand down without a fight.
The plan, to be executed two months later in November, consisted of two parts for the roughly 300 men. One team would take over Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city, which has a crucial seaport. A second team would simultaneously push to Caracas, the capital, to launch an air assault on Maduro’s mansion with US helicopters flown by American pilots wearing Venezuelan military garb.
With Maracaibo and the seat of Venezuelan power secured, American helicopters would transport Maduro to the US, where he is wanted on drug trafficking charges. Juan Guaidó, the US-backed Venezuelan opposition leader who nearly 18 months ago launched a global movement to become the country’s new president, would finally take over.
That was the plan, anyway. The actual operation that would end up taking place in May was less Michael Bay and more Keystone Cops.
“The whole thing was so ridiculous that it would never work,” former US Navy SEAL Ephraim Mattos, who was not involved in the plan but heard the details directly from the Venezuelans involved, told me. “It was totally insane.”
Beginning on May 1, nearly 60 Venezuelans and two former US Green Berets tried to enter the northern tip of Venezuela in two fishing boats, armed with far fewer weapons than desired.
The plot was immediately foiled. Maduro’s forces killed eight Venezuelan members of the raiding team and arrested another 13 members, including the two American veterans. Maduro claims his forces knew all about the operation. “We knew everything. What they talked about. What they ate and drank. Who financed them,” he said on Venezuelan TV last Monday night.
But even if Maduro didn’t know of the plot beforehand, tweets and videos announcing the raid to the world as it was underway surely would’ve tipped him off.
Those tweets and videos were posted by one of the men behind the attempted invasion: US Army veteran Jordan Goudreau, a three-time Bronze Star recipient and founder of Silvercorp USA, a small Florida-based private security company.
After talks with an exiled high-ranking Venezuelan general and having secured what Goudreau, at least, believed to be a signed memo of understanding with Guaidó’s team to pursue the operation, Goudreau and his company worked with the anti-Maduro forces to fulfill the mission despite the long odds.
Now some have dubbed Goudreau’s raid the “Stupid Bay of Pigs,” a reference to the failed CIA-backed invasion of Cuba in 1961. The ordeal has become an embarrassment for both the Trump administration and Guaidó, with each fiercely denying any involvement with the raid.
Here’s how it all came together, how it all fell apart, and what it all means for the future of Venezuela.