Ex-US Commandoes Involved in Operation to Kidnap Nicolas Maduro, Take Him to USA, Given 20-Year Sentence

The former military officers were working for a private military firm in an operation that brought back memories of Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

In May this year, Venezuelan authorities arrested two former commandoes of the United States Military and a group of men they trained, as they were trying to enter Venezuela from Colombia. It was then discovered, according to the country's government, that they were working on a secret operation to kidnap Nicolas Maduro, the disputed leader of the South American nation.

The two former army officers – Airan Berry (41) and Luke Denman (34) – have been sentenced to 20-year imprisonment on charges of conspiracy, terrorism, and arms trafficking. It has turned out that these men were working for a private military organization based in Florida called Silvercorp USA.

The way this operation was planned and completely failed has led to comparisons with the infamous 'Bay of Pigs' invasion by US-backed rebels into Cuba in 1961. In fact, this operation is being called 'Bay of Piglets' by the country's media, in a reference to the inept attempt to topple Fidel Castro's government.

Venezuela operation
Arms and other accessories seized from those involved in operation Twitter/Tarek William Saab

Operation Gideon

The 2020 operation was named 'Operation Gideon' and was meant to result in the capture of Maduro and his deportation to the USA. As per the plan, the two ex-commandoes were to sail in boats from Colombia, along with the other fighters, and enter Venezuela. After this, they would have captured Maduro, taken control of an airport, and flew back with the hostage to USA.

Berry and Denman were previously officers in the special forces division of the US Military and were highly decorated. As is common in the country, they then started working for a private firm in the field of security.

It is not yet clear why Silvercorp USA chose to design this kind of operation with serious geopolitical ramifications. The Venezuelan authorities have also demanded the extradition of Jordan Goudreau, chief of Silvercorp, to discover how far up the chain goes in the planning of this whole campaign.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Reuters

What makes the case even more interesting is that Goudreau has put out in public an agreement that he claims was signed between his company and Juan Guaido, the person appointed by the National Assembly of Venezuela, which considers Maduro's election as President invalid, as the interim President. Guido has outrightly denied his involvement in the entire plot.

Current situation in Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro is currently holding on to power in his country after a disputed presidential election in 2018. That election was considered unfair and the results disputed by the National Assembly of the country. After Maduro ignored the criticism and took office for a new term in January 2019, Juan Guaido, leader of the Assembly was declared interim President by the legislative body.

The global powers have been split over which leader they support. Major western countries like USA and its allies regard Guaido as the legitimate leader of the nation and have supported him while countries such as Russia, China, and Iran have put their weight behind Maduro. This has made the situation in Venezuela a geopolitical tinderbox.

However, Maduro has been able to keep control of the country because of the backing of the Army. The US has consistently called for him to step down and placed sanctions against him. This makes the claim that this attempted 'coup' was orchestrated by the US Government, with the knowledge and approval of Guido, very explosive.