Reports: Maduro Launching ‘Anything Goes’ Purge of Dissidents After Venezuela ‘Coup’

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures during a press conference with members of the foreign media at Miraflores palace in Caracas, on February 14, 2020. (Photo by YURI CORTEZ / AFP) (Photo by YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images

President Juan Guaidó of Venezuela, who has largely failed to exercise any of his constitutional powers due to his lack of control of the military, accused dictator Nicolás Maduro this weekend of seeking to “assassinate” Venezuelans in exile.

Guaidó described Operation Gideon – what Maduro has claimed was an attempt at a mercenary invasion of Venezuela meant to overthrow him orchestrated by the American and Colombian governments – as a “bloody show” and the beginning of a purge to eliminate vocal opponents of Maduro’s regime.

Guaidó’s remarks occurred before a report published in the Argentine outlet Infobae that similarly claimed Maduro was planning an “anything goes” purge of people both within his regime and Venezuelans generally who have expressed opposition to the regime or may simply not be considered loyal enough.

Maduro announced that his military – constitutionally, Guaidó’s to govern since he became president in January 2019, but a military that has remained loyal to the socialist dictator – had thwarted an attempted by American mercenaries and defected Venezuelan soldiers on May 3 to invade the country via Colombia and capture him. The American government is offering a $15 million reward for Maduro’s capture and a $10 million reward each for his top two henchmen, socialist party chief and television host Diosdado Cabello and Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami. All three are wanted in connection to narco-terrorist activities, including operations allegedly with the jihadist group Hezbollah.

A former American Green Beret now with the private contracting firm Silvercorp USA, Jordan Goudreau, identified himself as the head of Operation Gideon. Goudreau denies any links to any government and has expressed frustration that the Trump administration has ignored his attempts at contact.

Experts have noted that Goudreau may have been working with Cliver Alcalá, a former chavista general who claimed to defect in 2013, shortly after Hugo Chávez’s death. Alcalá’s brother serves as a diplomat for the Maduro regime. The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional also identified one of the men allegedly arrested in the operation as a friend of Hugo Chávez’s children and brother of a businessman with ties to the Maduro regime.

Maduro has launched an extensive military operation throughout the country, terrorizing remote areas allegedly in search of co-conspirators in Operation Gideon. Maduro’s media arms have published videos of socialist soldiers capturing and displaying men allegedly with the operation in an attempt to intimidate dissidents, lest they be tied to the alleged failed coup.

Guaidó made his remarks in a video circulating on social media this weekend, in which he accused Maduro of “wanting to simulate his own Bay of Pigs assassinating Venezuelan soldiers.”

In the video, Guaidó refers to Operation Gideon as a “false flag” event meant to give Maduro an illegitimate mandate for a crackdown on violence that he orchestrated.

“The dictatorship activated a new fraud, a ‘false flag’ that we have denounced by us and the international community. And the worst thing is that they were not satisfied with planting weapons or false evidence,” Guaidó said in the video. “Now they have gone to the extreme of killing Venezuelans and using their lifeless bodies to fabricate a story. Because they have acknowledged that, from the beginning, they infiltrated ‘Operation Gideon.'”

“If this was true, why did they allow it to get into Venezuelan territory?” Guaidó asked. “Because they wanted to kill and apprehend in a cowardly fashion Venezuelans who were in exile. They want to justify more repression, deceive people, and make themselves seem invincible.”

Infobae published an article on Sunday documenting the various threats that Maduro henchmen such as Cabello had been making on state media against dissidents shortly before the alleged failed coup.

“Violent actions against opposition members, journalists and people protesting for whatever reason appears to be the clear response the government [the Maduro regime] has ordered its armed groups to take,” Infobae asserted.

Infobae noted that, on May 5, two days after the alleged Operation Gideon, Diosdado Cabello appeared on television justifying violent attacks.

“When the fatherland is in danger, anything goes,” Cabello said on state television network VTV. “That is why we applaud with our souls the residents, the fishermen of Chuao, Puerto Cruz, Chichiriviche, Macuto, all of them.”

The towns listed were areas where the invading soldiers had allegedly crossed the border into Colombia and met with death at the hands of Venezuelan operatives.

The Maduro regime has not yet clarified exactly how many people it has captured or killed in relation to the alleged invasion. Various reports indicate that the initial action on May 3 resulted in 15 men captured and eight killed. The video posted by Maduro’s media outlets on Sunday shows another eight men captured. The Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) announced three more arrests on Monday.

Infobae noted that the Venezuelan armed forces did not participate in shutting down the alleged coup, but rather members of Maduro’s intelligence service, the Sebin, and Maduro’s Special Forces (FAES), which makes specifics on the operation harder to find.

Maduro did confirm the apprehension of at least two men – American citizens Airan Berry and Luke Denman, allegedly Silvercorp USA contractors.

Maduro also claimed that President Donald Trump orchestrated “Operation Gideon” with Guaidó, Colombian President Iván Duque, and Goudreau. As proof, Maduro revealed the existence last week of a contract between Guaidó’s government and Silvercorp USA, which did not indicate any ties to the White House or Bogotá. Former senior Guaidó advisor J.J. Rendón admitted that they had indeed signed the contract and that Guaidó was not kept uninformed about it before resigning last week. Rendón also insisted that the contract was not for Silvercorp USA to go on a “suicide mission,” but rather to collect intelligence on the possibility of removing Maduro.

Maduro has promised to bring Trump to The Hague for his alleged involvement. Washington has denied any ties to the incident.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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