The year of our Lord 2020 will likely go down in the history books as one of the most existentially ridiculous years ever. It began with President Donald Trump belligerently assassinating Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who was on a peace mission in Iraq. Unlike many controversial Middle Eastern figures, Solemani was universally beloved in Iran and played a leading role in the defeat of ISIS in Syria. Shortly thereafter, Chinese officials isolated a novel coronavirus strain after noticing a strange influenza-like ailment afflicting residents in and around the city of Wuhan weeks earlier. Needless to say, the coronavirus behind what is now referred to as Covid-19 has led to a massive global pandemic. On May 25, with said catastrophe in full effect, a white Minneapolis police officer lynched an unarmed, nonviolent black man named George Floyd, causing nationwide rebellions and calls to defund/abolish the institution of American policing. And that’s just the tip of the quickly melting iceberg.
It has certainly been a hell of a year. But there’s a special little story that may have barely registered on the radar of all but the most avid connoisseurs of current events. During the first week of May, a ragtag gang of mercenaries launched from Colombia and was swiftly apprehended by Venezuelan forces and socialist fishermen after attempting to invade the neighboring country via the coastal La Guaira State and the peninsula of Chuao. In the wake of this misadventure, news broke that two of the approximately sixty combatants were in fact American citizens and former Green Berets Luke Denman and Airan Berry. This embarrassingly botched mission, coined “Operation Gideon”, was quickly revealed to be yet another coup attempt against democratically-elected Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the Bolivarian government more broadly. A leaked contract described tactics that included captures, assassinations, drone strikes, and even death squads in order to “liberate” the oil-rich nation.
The lead planner behind the foiled operation was none other than Silvercorp CEO Jordan Goudreau. Gourdreau’s Florida-based private security firm was contracted for $212.9 million, yet only offered the aforementioned mercenaries between $50,000 and $100,000 each for their life-threatening services. Silvercorp USA initially began with hopes of converting military veterans into school security personnel — theoretically to protect students from school shooters for a small subscription fee — but the scheme appears to have been shelved. Gourdreau, himself a U.S. Army veteran, teamed up with retired Venezuelan General Cliver Alcala, who had previously been involved in various coup plots, often with assistance from the right-wing Colombian government. This was supposed to be Silvercorp’s big break.
As journalist Lucas Koerner summarized, “Jordan Goudreau, 43, was responsible for training a contingent of 300 Venezuelan army deserters in Colombia, who were to penetrate Venezuela in a heavily armed caravan and seize the capital of Caracas within 96 hours.” These details and more had been laid out in the aforementioned contract, which, thankfully, also contained an equal opportunity employment clause, promising to be inclusive “across gender, ethnicity, age, disabilities and national origin…”
One of the most notable aspects of the contract, however, is the fact that it named Juan Guaidó as the operation’s “Commander in Chief.” Guaidó, who initially denied any involvement, is a disgraced Venezuelan politician who clumsily declared himself “interim president” of the Bolivarian republic early last year and has since become embroiled in a corruption scandal.
The political trajectory of Guaidó is fascinating in its own right. In 2007, after graduating from Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas, Guaidó moved to Washington, D.C. to study under neoliberal economist Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia at George Washington University. Later that year, he took part in anti-government rallies after the Venezuelan government declined to renew the license of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) — a privately owned station that played a prominent role in the 2002 coup attempt against then-president Hugo Chávez (an event chronicled in a documentary entitled, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”). And thus began Guaidó’s tumultuous tenure in the realm of Venezuelan politics.
The young Guaidó continued taking part in anti-government demonstrations with “Generation 2007” youth activists, and, in 2009, helped establish the Popular Will Party with infamous right-wing political figure Leopoldo Lopez. During the subsequent years, Guaidó met with various regime change specialists and wealthy business owners, and even participated in the violent guarimbas in 2014, which aimed to destabilize and ultimately overthrow the government. The emerging political figure then proceeded to publicly whitewash the deadly tactics used by right-wing protesters, presenting himself as a polished and professional advocate for democracy.
Guaidó also participated in Venezuela’s National Assembly, spending many years as an alternate deputy, until the 2015 elections when he narrowly secured a seat on the governing body. The opposition-dominated National Assembly eventually selected Guaidó as its president — a position that is awarded on a rotating basis. This new development made Guaidó the perfect candidate for Washington’s regime change efforts. Despite still being unknown to 81% of Venezuelans, Guaidó declared himself “interim president” on January 22, 2019 with the full support of the Trump administration. What followed was a series of Western media misinformation campaigns, bungled coup attempts, and, after all else failed, a new wave of U.S. economic sanctions that killed an estimated 40,000 Venezuelans in just one year.
After losing his National Assembly seat in early January, 2020, Guaidó staged a childish scene in which he attempted to climb over the fence surrounding parliament. The floundering politician then faded from the spotlight until the recent failed incursion. Indeed, Operation Gideon — also referred to as “Stupid Bay of Pigs” — appears to have been a pathetic, last-ditch effort to install Guaidó as Venezuela’s president and implement a program of neoliberal “shock therapy”, primarily focused on privatizing the country’s vast oil reserves.
Though appearing exotic on its surface, this quaint anecdote also fits into the “bigger picture” of 2020’s troubling zeitgeist. As part of its long-standing policy of violent imperialism throughout Latin America, the U.S. government funded the aforementioned 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela, hoping to oust popular president Hugo Chávez. Despite its consistent two-decade commitment to disrupting the progressive Bolivarian Revolution, the world’s only remaining empire has evidently failed miserably. This defeated regime change effort mirrors other recent U.S. foreign policy failures, such as that of the devastating Syrian proxy war. In keeping with its increasingly desperate imperial ambitions, the U.S. has now lashed out against China — its main competitor on the global stage and a nation that has aided Venezuela amid the aforementioned brutal sanctions. The epic downfall of Juan Guaidó is not only a tale of personal and professional shortcoming, but could also symbolize a decline in the neoliberal global order more broadly, with new possibilities on the horizon.
This article has also been published by The Hampton Institute.