Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro claimed in a televised address Wednesday that he had proof linking President Donald Trump to a bizarre alleged “invasion” of Venezuela this weekend and that he would bring the United States to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the matter.
Maduro’s regime announced this week that it had thwarted an alleged invasion out of Colombia, claiming it to have been organized by American citizens in conjunction with the governments of Colombia and the United States, in addition to the legitimate government of Venezuela under President Juan Guaidó. Maduro has also taken two American citizens, identified as Airan Berry and Luke Denman, hostage.
The governments of the United States and Colombia have denied involvement. Guaidó also denied involvement, although one of his senior advisors, JJ Rendón, later admitted to having signed a contract with Silvercorp USA, the American private contracting firm allegedly involved in what Maduro has branded “Operation Gideon.”
On Wednesday, Maduro appeared on television flashing what he claimed was a copy of the contract and proof that President Donald Trump was directing the operation.
“Here is the contract. Here are the signatures. It is public now, known, and communicated,” Maduro said, waving a piece of paper around that is not legible on camera. “The contract for the invasion of Venezuela, a grave crime in any nation. I await action on behalf of the power that guarantees justice in Venezuela.”
Maduro claimed the document says, “President Donald Trump is the direct boss of this incursion, of this corporation [Silvercorp], and of them. They recognize him as the boss of the entire corporation.”
Maduro accused Trump of having “privatized” the operation so that “if it goes badly, like it did, they can wash their hands like [Pontius] Pilate and leave this in the hands of nobody and be able to lie.”
“Behind all this is Donald Trump, [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo directly. It is a contract ordered by the Department of State,” Maduro claimed.
#EnVideo 📹 | Presidente @NicolasMaduro: Aquí está el contrato para la invasión de Venezuela por orden de Donald Trump quien es el jefe directo de esta incursión#EscudoBolivarianoTiburón2020 pic.twitter.com/Zvi1pl4rVJ
— VTV CANAL 8 (@VTVcanal8) May 6, 2020
Maduro also announced that he had ordered Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza to bring a case to the ICC at The Hague against the United States.
“We are going to the International Criminal Court, we are going to the U.N. Security Council,” Maduro claimed.
The ICC has jurisdiction to try individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and “aggression,” a newly added crime loosely defined as a state attack on another state actor. The ICC explicitly states that it “prosecutes cases only when States do not are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely.”
The proper venue for a case between two states is the International Court of Justice (ICJ), meant to be a court for disputes between countries. Maduro did not mention the ICJ in his remarks.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Pompeo stated emphatically that the government of America was not involved in the incident this week.
“There was no U.S. Government direct involvement in this operation,” Pompeo said. “If we had been involved, it would have gone differently.”
Pompeo also said the State Department was still trying to confirm if the alleged Americans abducted were actually U.S. citizens and, from there, “figure a path forward. We want to get every American back. If the Maduro regime decides to hold them, we’ll use every tool that we have available to try and get them back.”
In a statement Tuesday, President Guaidó – who became the legitimate president of Venezuela after Maduro’s presidential term expired in January 2019 – accused Maduro of lying about ties between his administration and Silvercorp.
“I ratify that neither the Parliament, nor the government of Venezuela, have any relation to the events occurring on Sunday, May 3 and Monday, May 4 this year,” Guaidó said in a statement on Tuesday.
Guaidó was responding to claims by Jordan Goudreau, who has identified himself as the leader of the alleged failed invasion and of Silvercorp, that he had cooperated with Guaidó’s team in planning the operation.
“Goudreau has said he signed a contract with the U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó to overthrow Maduro, which Guaidó has denied,” the Associated Press reported. “Goudreau says the opposition politician never fulfilled the contract, but the former Green Beret pushed ahead with an underfunded operation with just 60 fighters, including the two U.S. veterans [Berry and Denman].”
Goudreau also told AP that neither the Colombian government nor the American government had helped their operation in any way and, following the failed assault, he had failed to be able to contact anyone in those governments.
“Nobody’s returning my calls, It’s a nightmare,” he added, without giving any indication the governments had ever returned any of his calls prior to this week.
Following Guaidó’s denial of any involvement in the scheme, advisor JJ Rendón admitted in a CNN en Español interview that the Guaidó team had, indeed, signed a contract with Silvercorp – likely the contract Maduro claimed to possess.
“It was an exploration to see about the possibility of capturing and handing over to justice members of the regime that have accusations, order of capture, etc,” Rendón explained. He said the Guaidó team paid Goudreau $50,000 personally.
Rendón claimed that the contract was not a request for an invasion, had only an “exploratory purpose,” and Guaidó’s team never agreed to any actual military action. He attacked Silvercorp for using the contract to justify a “suicide mission.”
In a subsequent interview, Rendón said the contract “was not signed behind the president’s [Guaidó’s] back, but not with consent, either.” He claimed Guaidó personally ordered an end to any kinetic action.
“That was left without any effect and the decision [not to act] was ratified in early November. From that week on, he hadn’t know anything about that gentleman [Goudreau],” he added.
The AP revealed on Wednesday that the U.S. government is investigating Goudreau for a series of potential crimes involving arms trafficking. It claimed that the invasion was the brainchild of Goudreau and “rebellious former Venezuelan Army Gen., Cliver Alcalá,” a chavista loyalist who retired in 2013, when Maduro took power, and left the country. Alcalá, wanted on drug trafficking charges, surrendered to the U.S. government in March.
The AP concluded that the invasion was “doomed from the start because it lacked the support of the Trump administration and was infiltrated by Maduro’s vast, Cuban-trained intelligence network.”