Venezuela Confronts Intimidation, Myth-making, and Dirty War

Illustration by Nathaniel St. Clair

Venezuela’s story currently is of vulnerability and precariousness amidst signs of rising U.S. aggression. The imperialist U.S. government wants the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro removed and insists that Venezuela’s massive oil reserves and the entire continent remain within the fold of international capitalism. Crucial to these U.S. designs is junior partner Colombia with its stable of drug-trafficking criminals specializing in destabilization.

U.S. foreign policy aide Elliot Abrams observed on April 30 that, “in the short run,” pressures inside and outside the country will mount, and Maduro’s “days are numbered.” Indeed, on May 3 a seaborne military attack against President Nicolas Maduro’s government materialized on a peninsula in Venezuela’s Aragua state. Units of Venezuela’s Army killed eight of the invaders while seizing armaments and two motor launches. The home base for the attackers was La Guajira state in extreme northeastern Colombia.

Official reports indicate that 13 of the intruders were captured, including two former U.S. special forces soldiers and a DEA officer of Venezuelan origin. Most of the force belonged to a 300-man contingent of Venezuelan Army deserters who have been training in La Guajira since 2019.

The head training officer was Jordan Goudreau, formerly of the U.S. Army special forces. Goudreau was assisted by four other U.S. Army veterans. He is supposed to have conferred with one of President Trump’s body guards and with associates of Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed president of Venezuela propped up by the U.S. government.

Claiming responsibility for the failed attack in a video interview, Goudreau indicated “special forces have been activated in the south, east, and west of Venezuela.” Within hours of the attack, Florida-based Venezuelan journalist Patricia Poleo displayed on line the eight-page contact dated October 16, 2019 that Goudreau had signed with Guaidó and two associates.

The contract called for “terrorist actions” to be carried out against Venezuela’s government and for Goudreau’s company Silvercorp USA to receive $212.9 million. Venezuelan oil resources in Guaidó’s possession, courtesy of the U.S. government, would serve to guarantee the payment.

Reacting to the attack, Diosdado Cabello, head of Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, declared that, “the U.S. government had orchestrated the military incursion using DEA agents and narco-traffickers [and] we presume there are others who are part of this operation.”

Dissident Venezuelan General Cliver Alcalá had commanded the training camps. But the Colombian Army arrested him on March 23 and seized military equipment. U.S. authorities quickly removed Alcalá to the United States. Relations between the U.S. and Colombian governments are tight enough that no extradition request was required. Alcalá is charged with narco-trafficking.

President Trump had set the stage for the attack with his announcement April 1 that Naval and Air Force units would be undertaking an anti- narcotics mission in waters around Venezuela and in the Pacific. The resulting flotilla includes destroyers, Coast Guard cutters, and “littoral” (close to shore) combat ships. On board are helicopters, patrol and surveillance aircraft, and ground troops.

Speaking on April 17, Admiral Craig Faller of the U.S. Southern Command named the enemy: “Maduro and his cronies have been indicted (March 26 by U.S. government) as drug traffickers, and they profit enormously from illicit trade … That makes the narcotraffickers who work in and out of Venezuela a target for our disruption, dismantlement, and defeat operations.”

Editorializing, the Pittsburg Post-Gazette on April 24 insisted that, “What do not need, or want, is another war.” The U.S. government needs to “focus on the more pressing needs of its own people, who are trying to make it through the most significant crisis the country has faced in decades.”

In its aggression towards Venezuela, the United States can count on right-wing Colombian governments for ongoing assistance. Colombian paramilitaries, present in Venezuela for many years, are instruments of turmoil and discord that fit with U.S. purposes. Having long occupied Colombia’s nether world of rural criminality, these perpetrators of massacres and murder are experts at creating tension.

In Venezuela, Colombian paramilitaries have carried out killings, supported right-wing demonstrators, and pursued assassination attempts against political leaders. Recently they’ve been paying Venezuelan youth to accept instruction in urban warfare and tangled with Venezuelan army units in Táchira state. In December 2019 Venezuelan Army units seized an explosives depot belonging to Colombian paramilitaries. Venezuelan authorities recently accused the Colombian government of facilitating the crimes committed by paramilitaries.

Colombian paramilitaries in Venezuela are involved in the export of significant amounts of Colombian cocaine to other countries. According to, “Most of Colombia’s current drug trafficking organizations were formed a decade ago by mid-level commanders of state-aligned paramilitary groups.” In Venezuela, drug-trafficking paramilitaries are subject to Colombian Army control and work with higher-ups in Colombia and with international crime organizations.

The process involves the transport by air of Colombian-produced cocaine to small airstrips in western Venezuela and transfer of the cocaine to other planes leaving for Mexico, Central American countries, and Caribbean nations. Much of the drug ends up in Europe.

Landowners in Western Venezuela receive at least $40 thousand for each landing of a drug-laden plane from Colombia. Colombia’s Catatumbo borderland is the source of much cocaine crossing into Venezuela. Venezuela’s government recently protested Colombian paramilitaries handling illegal drugs on “Venezuelan soil,”

The truth matters. Most of the cocaine leaving Colombia has nothing to do with Venezuela; 84 percent in 2017 was transported over the Pacific Ocean. In 2018 U.S. ally Colombia produced 70 percent of the cocaine in the world. Colombia dedicates six percent of its economy (in 2014) to the narcotics business.

U.S. banks profit enormously as they launder Colombian drug money. U.S. citizens are leading consumers of Colombian cocaine. The current U.S. president in 2011 benefited from laundered Colombian drug money in financing his “Trump Ocean Club.”

Meanwhile, in Venezuela gasoline is in short supply and food transport is reduced. Venezuelans abroad have lost jobs due to the pandemic and their families receive less money by way of remittances. U.S. sanctions have led to serious shortages of food and medical supplies, and suffering mounts. Food prices have skyrocketed. One commentator looks at looting, protests, and confrontations with police and sees “overall tumult.”


W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.