Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has repeatedly said that he was not involved in an ill-fated raid aiming to remove President Nicolás Maduro from office earlier this month, but a document obtained by el Nuevo Herald shows that Guaidó was active in hiring a Florida company headed by an ex-Green Beret to carry out the incursion.
Just days before the raid, a Florida law firm representing Silvercorp USA sent a letter to Guaidó and other members of the opposition party to remind them that they owed an initial payment of $1.5 million on an Oct. 16, 2019, security contract that was “past due.”
The April 28 letter said that the “Administration of Juan Guaidó was supposed to pay Silvercorp USA” the retainer within five days after the opposition leader and a handful of allies signed the $212.9 million contract for services “backed/secured by Venezuelan barrels of oil.” The seven-page contract, described as a “general services agreement,” contains scant details of actual tasks to be performed but stresses the importance of secrecy among the parties.
“The Service Provider [Silvercorp USA] shall take all measures reasonably necessary to protect the confidential information received from the [Guaidó] Administration, at least as great as the measures it takes to protect its own confidential information,” the contract says.
Both the letter, obtained by el Nuevo Herald, and the seven-page contract, published by the Washington Post, contradict Guaidó’s assertions after the failed raid that he took no part in its planning and is “on the side of the constitution.”
Guaidó, who since early last year has been recognized by the United States and dozens of other countries as the interim president of Venezuela, has tried to distance himself from the failed incursion on May 3 and 4. He has also sought to separate himself from the Melbourne-based private security firm that the opposition party hired to train Venezuelan soldiers and others to execute against Maduro’s socialist government.
Attorneys with the Volk law firm, also based in Melbourne, declined to comment about the letter and their client Silvercorp’s demand for payment from Guaidó’s opposition party. “I’ve been instructed that they do not talk to the press,” said a woman who answered the firm’s phone on Friday.
Guaidó, who has presented himself as a standard-bearer of democracy in South America in his mission to oust Maduro, now risks tarnishing that image because the raid’s soldiers included at least two U.S. mercenaries.
In an interview with CNN en Español, J.J. Rendón, a colorful Venezuelan campaign adviser and opposition strategist, said that on Oct. 16, 2019, Guaidó had signed a “preliminary” contract with Silvercorp. But according to Rendón, within a month the politician had lost interest in going forward.
While not stated in the contract — which was signed by Guaidó, Rendón, and Silvercorp’s CEO, Jordan Goudreau, a former Green Beret, among others — the raid team was going to capture an airport, seize Maduro and his allies and spirit them out of the country.
Rendón said the contract was part of a larger 42-page proposal that he described as an “exploration” into the idea of “capturing members of the regime that have outstanding arrest warrants and turning them over to justice.”
In March, Maduro and other current and former senior members of his government were charged with narco-terrorism by New York federal prosecutors, who offered a $15 million reward for the president’s arrest for his alleged role in allowing Venezuela to be used by Colombian leftist groups for cocaine shipments to the United States.
The raid proposal, however, “was never given a green light,” Rendón said.
A Venezuelan source familiar with the operation told el Nuevo Herald that Guaidó was aware of the plan but kept delaying the raid.
On May 1, The Associated Press revealed the broad outlines of the plan that was being promoted by Goudreau. Venezuelan soldiers who trained in Colombia and made up the bulk of the operation grew frustrated and pushed ahead anyway, the source said.
“They were hopeful that they might succeed,” he explained. “People were hungry and the project was on life support.”
Last week, Venezuelan Communication Minister Jorge Rodríguez said security forces had arrested 23 people, including two Americans, involved in the raids. At least 10 mercenaries were also reportedly killed.
Rodríguez blamed President Donald Trump and Guaidó for backing the plan, prompting Maduro to order Venezuelan diplomats to make their case against Washington at the U.N. Security Council.
The U.S. State Department has denied any “direct” involvement, and there are reports that law enforcement is now investigating Goudreau and his company.