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Venezuela coup plotters met at Trump resort in Florida. Central figure says US officials knew of plan

By Antonio Maria Delgado, Kevin G. Hall, Shirsho Dasgupta and Ben Wieder, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI — In a challenge to denials of government involvement, the ex-U.S. special operations sergeant whose security firm took part in a botched Venezuelan coup last May said two Trump administration officials met with and expressed support to planners of Operation Gideon, a Bay of Pigs-type operation that tried to oust Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro.

It's a story of bungling, bravado and cloak-and-dagger plotting, with plans shared in clandestine meetings in the back of limousines while rolling through Miami, in restaurants and even at dusk on the 12th fairway of the Red Course of Trump Doral, the Miami Herald/McClatchy has learned.

Details have been elusive, even as Gideon's planning and execution happened in the nation's capital, South Florida and across the Caribbean Sea in coastal Venezuela. The allegations reported exclusively in this story are also contained in a $1.4 million breach-of-contract lawsuit filed Friday by Miami attorney Gustavo J. Garcia-Montes in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

The suit is against Juan Jose Rendon, a political consultant closely aligned with Venezuelan legislator Juan Guaido, who the Trump administration in January 2019 began calling the legitimate president of the oil-rich South American nation.

It was brought on behalf of retired Sgt. 1st Class Jordan Goudreau, who in roughly seven hours of detailed interviews insisted he had encouragement from the administration and even held meetings to plan the operation at the Trump Hotel in the nation's capital and at the Trump Doral west of Miami. Reporters worked on fact-checking Goudreau's data and allegations over a six-week period.

The goal of Gideon was to replace Maduro by installing Guaido, whose name appears on a contract purportedly signed with the coup plotters. The complete document — obtained by reporters from the Miami Herald and McClatchy, its parent company — contains a never-before-seen clause that allows Guaido to disavow any involvement if the mission failed.

 

The reporters also obtained a recording, first cited by the Washington Post, of what appears to be Guaido speaking in English to the plotters, encouraging them and celebrating their just-signed contract to provide help in procurement, logistics and "project execution advisement."

An addendum to the contract said Silvercorp "will advise and assist ... in planning and executing an operation to capture/detain/remove Nicolas Maduro (heretoafter, "Primary Objective"), remove the current regime, and install the recognized Venezuelan President Juan Guaido."

The men who were present during the signing have not disputed the events or their signatures.

"I do have concerns but we are doing the right thing for our country and we are in a humanitarian crisis," the man believed to be Guaido in the recording tells Goudreau, the decorated ex-Green Beret who ran a Florida-registered security company, Silvercorp USA, which participated in the attempted coup.

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