Venezuelan Government claims to have captured two American contractors allegedly involved in a foiled coup attempt. We also take a look at the flying activity off Venezuela.
U.S. News outlets including CNN and the Associated Press started reporting late on May 5 about the capture of two American “mercenaries” among a larger group of men during an “attempted landing” on the Venezuelan coastline near the country’s capital, Caracas. The operation is claimed by the Venezuelans to be a combined coup/assassination attempt against its embattled current President, Nicolas Maduro. The U.S. administration has denied involvement. A video claiming responsibility for the operation has surfaced on YouTube.
While it is difficult to establish the intent, origin or even authenticity of the photos and video circulating on social media including YouTube and Twitter, it would appear that some kind of incident did actually occur in Venezuela.
Although very small in comparison and weird in execution, this claimed Venezuelan incident is oddly reminiscent of some aspects of the failed 1961 “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba under the Kennedy administration.
The Associated Press reported that, “A former Green Beret has taken responsibility for what he claimed was a failed attack Sunday aimed at overthrowing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and, that the socialist government said, ended with eight dead.”
The man claimed to be an American by the Venezuelan government has been reported as “Jordan Goudreau”. The Associated Press went on to report that, “Jordan Goudreau’s comments in an interview with an exiled Venezuelan journalist capped a bizarre day that started with reports of a predawn amphibious raid near the South American country’s heavily guarded capital.”
Details revealed by the Associated Press said that, “An AP investigation published Friday found that Goudreau had been working with a retired Venezuelan army general now facing U.S. narcotics charges to train dozens of deserters from Venezuela’s security forces at secret camps inside neighboring Colombia. The goal was to mount a cross-border raid that would end in Maduro’s arrest.”
To maintain security and unattributability, special forces operators from many countries are sometimes covertly employed by shell “security contractors” during classified operations. Should the operation be unsuccessful or produce an undesirable outcome, these “private” organizations maintain an easily perforated detachment from any official government, providing plausible deniability for military operations that may prove politically objectionable.
News media including video and still photos released by the Venezuelans showed a large group of men being held under guard at a marina area. Several of the men appeared to be Caucasian.
A video claimed to be related to the incident was posted to YouTube showing two men addressing the camera. One man identified as American Jordan Goudreau says, “At 1700 hours, a daring amphibious raid was launched from the border of Columbia deep into the heart of Caracas [Venezuela]. Our men are continuing to fight right now. Our units have been activated in the south, west, and east of Venezuela. Commander Nieto is with me, is collocated, and Commander Sicaya [spelling] is on the ground now fighting.”
While discrepancies exist between the YouTube video alleged to be associated with the capture of men on the Venezuelan coast, it may be because the video was prepared in advance of the operation for release after a successful outcome or initiation of the operation. The video has disappeared from news websites and from Instagram where it appeared early on Tuesday. It has resurfaced on YouTube under the username, “NoticieroDigital.com”, a YouTube account that was started on September 4, 2008 The Aviationist has learned.
An additional video posted to the same channel earlier on Saturday, May 3, 2020, showed a group of armed persons in camouflage uniforms with a central spokesman saying, [auto-translated from Spanish];
“People of Venezuela, who is speaking to you? Colina Ibarra National Guard captain, Robert pseudonym Pantera, identity card 17-024-933, pseudonym Pantera. My main mission is to capture the elements that are perpetrating the power of illegitimate way, Venezuelan comrades, comrades –in-arms, join this liberating deed. Let’s reestablish peace, liberty and the constitutional thread together. And, as the word says, the horse gets ready for battle but Jehovah is the one the victory.”
As with the previous video posted to YouTube, its authenticity has not been verified by any official outlet or government organization.
Bellingcat Open Source Investigation group posted an interesting breakdown of the “operation”:
When the Venezuelan authorities said they had foiled a “maritime invasion” by “terrorist mercenaries” early on May 3 on the coast just north of Caracas, many (rightfully) doubted the veracity of the story.
Footage showed that something DID happen there, though. pic.twitter.com/gyfgFPHWVC
— Bellingcat (@bellingcat) May 5, 2020
Numerous photos have surfaced on Twitter claiming to be associated with the incident. One photo shows the two Caucasian males reported as “Americans” sitting in a boat that later appears in video of Venezuelan authorities as they take the boat and its crew into custody. What is weird is that the incursion was somehow confirmed and could almost be followed live on Twitter. Another peculiar thing is that the weapons used in the invasion was actually an Airsoft rifle.
Bizarre coup atttempts are not rare in Venezuela. On Jun. 28, 2017, a man described as “rogue policeman Oscar Perez” allegedly led the commandeering of a Bolkow BO-105 police helicopter: the chopper was used to attack the Interior Ministry firing small arms at the building and then dropping grenades on the Supreme Court building in downtown Caracas, Venezuela.
Anyway, the incident comes as tension between the U.S. and Venezuela are at an all-time high. As reports of the incident surfaced in news media around the world, the BBC Word News reported that U.S. President Donald Trump told media that the Venezuela situation “has nothing to do with our government”.
Whatever, the incident also provided an opportunity to check whether any spyplane was active off Venezuela during or before the alleged invasion. The only interesting mission we have found (there might be others that were not tracked) dates back to Apr. 29, 2020, when an RC-135 Rivet Joint performed a surveillance mission over the Caribbean Sea. Additional missions were flown on Apr. 14, 17 and 21, based on ADS-B/Mode-S observations.
#USAF RC-135 spent the day off the coast of Venezuela. We have seen many types of surveillance of the regime however I have noticed that each time there is an attempted military uprising it is proceeded by Rivet Joint aircraft off the coast likely listening in on conversations. pic.twitter.com/PKab9oVJYV
— Simón Bolívar (@Simon85205764) April 29, 2020
However, ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions are quite frequent in the Maiquetia FIR (the only Flight Information Region managed by Venezuela), with Rivet Joints often operating off Venezuela for multiple hours (sometimes even more than once per day). But generally speaking, such spyplanes missions in the region are quite common and not necessarily related to the invasion attempt nor to any crisis in Venezuela at all.
Last year, some U.S. reconnaissance flights in the Caribbean Sea have caused Caracas to complain for alleged violations of Venezuela’s airspace. Actually, the U.S. aircraft have never breached into the sovereign airspace of Venezuela (the one above the country’s land and territorial waters, that extend to 12NM from the coast) but have operated in so-called “due regard” inside the Maiquetia FIR. Multiple times during 2019, the Ministry of Defense of Venezuela, Vladimir Padrino López, has published details about the American spyplanes missions, posting details of the intrusions on his official Twitter account.
Equipped with all sorts of antennae and sensors, the Rivet Joint is capable to eavesdrop enemy transmissions and detect frequencies used by radio and radars: it can pinpoint emissions within a large coverage area and transmit the snooped data via satellite. Therefore it is a strategic platform that helps the Pentagon to draw the EOB (Electronic Order of Battle) of the enemy prior and during crisis or wars.
Not only are RC-135s frequently spotted operating off Venezuela. On Jul. 19, 2019, a U.S. Navy EP-3E ARIES II was intercepted by a Venezuelan Air Force Su-30MKII Flanker in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea. According to U.S. Southern Command, that released footage of the close encounter, the Russian-built multirole aircraft “aggressively shadowed” the EP-3E aircraft, flying at an unsafe distance from the interlligence gathering aircraft “jeopardizing the crew and aircraft”.