U.S. Denies Role in Venezuelan Coup Attempt. Here’s What You Need to Know
- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said Monday that the country arrested two Americans who were part of a plan to overthrow and kill him.
- Former Green Beret Jordan Goudreau, who runs a private security firm, claimed responsibility for the operation, which he said he launched separately from the U.S. government or Venezuelan opposition to capture Maduro.
- Maduro claimed that President Trump and the U.S. was behind the attempted coup, but Trump and his administration denied any involvement.
A Series of Unusual Events
President Donald Trump and his administration have denied allegations from the Venezuelan government that the United States was behind an attempt to invade the embattled Latin American country earlier this week.
Details of the highly unusual events, which have taken place in the last few days, remain murky and largely unverified as both countries continue to lob accusations at each other.
The incident is likely to further intensify the already fraught relationship between the U.S. and Venezuela, but it’s also been characterized by contradictory reports, numerous he-said-she-said allegations, and few confirmed details.
Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about this confusing and bizarre situation.
Sunday: The “Operation” Comes to Light
On Sunday, the Venezuelan government announced that it had stopped an “invasion” off its coast and claimed that eight people were killed and two were captured.
The government also said that the group were “mercenary terrorists” who had come from Colombia in a speedboat to overthrow the government, but security forces had stopped the planned coup and taken the group’s weapons and equipment.
Later that day, a former U.S. Green Beret named Jordan Goudreau released a video alongside former Venezuelan National Guard officer Javier Nieto Quintero.
The two announced that they had launched what they called “Operation Gideon,” which they described as an operation to capture senior members of Maduro’s government, and called on Venezuelan soldiers to join them.
In an interview with the Washington Post later on Sunday, Goudreau, who now runs a Florida-based security firm called Silvercorp USA, said the operation involved 60 troops, some of whom he claimed had already engaged Maduro’s forces by land and sea. That has yet to be verified.
Goudreau also told the Post that the troops, many of whom he said were Venezuelan military defectors, had been based in camps near Colombia’s border.
That appeared to back up an investigation by the Associated Press published Friday, which found that Goudreau had been working with a former Venezuelan army general, who is now facing U.S. narcotic charges, to train Venezuelan military deserters to invade the country and capture Maduro.
Notably, Goudreau said that he had tried to get backing from the U.S. government but was unsuccessful. He also claimed that he had discussed the plan with the Venezuelan opposition, led by Juan Guaidó, but the opposition pulled out.
In a separate interview on Sunday with a Miami-based journalist Patricia Poleo, Goudreau provided what he claimed was a general services contract between Silvercorp and the opposition signed by Guaidó in Miami in October for $213 million. He said that the opposition never paid them, but that he still went ahead with the operation.
Guaidó, for his part, denied any connection to the operation. Hernán Alemán, another leading opposition lawmaker, also told reporters that the operation was conducted without the knowledge of Guaidó or any opposition leaders.
Alemán said that they had been briefed last year on the general idea of but did not endorse it.
Goudreau later told Bloomberg that the opposition leaders were “lying.”
Monday: Maduro Says He’s Captured Two Americans
During a lengthy televised address on Monday, Maduro described the operation as a “terrorist” assault on Venezuela that had been aimed at killing him.
He also said that authorities had arrested 13 “terrorists,” two of whom were American “mercenaries.”
Maduro showed what he said were the U.S. passports and other identification cards of the Americans, which identified them as Airan Berry and Luke Denman.
Goudreau confirmed that Berry and Denman were two of the people involved in the operation, and told the Post that they were fellow former Special Forces who joined the operation as “supervisors,” and that they had been on a boat that was intercepted by Maduro’s forces.
Maduro also accused the Trump administration of helping coordinate the operation, and seemed to back up speculations that the plot had been infiltrated by someone in his government.
“We knew everything,” he said. “What they ate, what they didn’t eat. What they drank. Who financed them. We know that the U.S. government delegated this as a [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration] operation.”
The DEA, for its part, outright denied any involvement on Monday. According to reports, U.S. officials tried to distance themselves from the operation, and some questioned the truthfulness and legality of it.
Tuesday: Trump and Administration Respond
President Trump himself denied any involvement when asked about the incident on Tueday.
“We’ll find out. We just heard about it,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with our government.”
Those remarks were echoed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who told reporters that the U.S. government “had nothing to do with what’s happened in Venezuela in the last few days.”
In a statement to the media, the State Department said it could not comment on the reported arrests because of privacy considerations.
“There is a major disinformation campaign underway by the Maduro regime, making it difficult to separate facts from propaganda,” the statement said, adding that officials would be “looking closely into the role of the Maduro regime.”
“The record of falsehoods and manipulation by Maduro and his accomplices, as well as their highly questionable representation of the details, argues that nothing should be taken at face value when we see the distorting of facts.”
Maduro’s communications chief, Jorge Rodríguez, responded to Trump’s denial of involvement by referring to the fact that Silvercorp had posted a promotional video on its website that shows Goudreau as security detail behind President Trump at a rally in 2018.
The company also posted a since-deleted picture on it’s Instagram account that appeared to be taken backstage at the same rally, according to VICE.
“How is it that the Secret Service of the United States hired Silvercorp to handle Trump’s security and that Silvercorp publishes that on its website?” Rodríguez asked during a news conference.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press) (Al Jazeera)
Dutch Man Who Fathered Over 500 Kids Is Being Sued to Stop Donating Sperm Over Incest Concerns
Meijer is accused of having children in 13 different countries.
Johnathon Jacob Meijer, a 41-year-old Dutch man, is currently facing a lawsuit that aims to forbid him from donating sperm after he allegedly fathered at least 550 children.
The lawsuit claims that Meijer’s prolific and obsessive donation habit heightens the risk of accidental incest for his children.
Meijer has donated to at least 13 clinics, mostly located in the Netherlands. He also used websites and social media to reach out to women looking for donors. In 2017, after the Dutch Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology learned that Meijer had already fathered more than 100 children, he was blacklisted from all clinics in the Netherlands. However, he has reportedly continued his donations in Ukraine, Denmark, and other countries.
One professional tracking Meijer’s movements told The New York Times in 2021 that she had found mothers of his children in Australia, Italy, Serbia, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Romania, Sweden, Mexico, and the United States.
One mother from the Netherlands has partnered with Donorkind — a Dutch organization for children conceived via a sperm donor — to bring this lawsuit against Meijer.
The mother claims that Meijer told her that he didn’t have more than 25 donor children.
“When I think about the consequences this could have for my child, I get a bad gut feeling and I become uncertain about his future: how many more children will be added?” she said to Donorkind.
Donorkind and the mother are looking for the court to order Meijer to stop donating and for any clinic that has his sperm to destroy it.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Telegraph) (Insider)
U.S. Intel Suggests Pro-Ukraine Group Sabotaged Nord Stream Pipeline
There is no evidence that the culprits behind the attack were acting under the direction of the Ukrainian government.
Europe Braces for Shocking Revelations
A pro-Ukraine group blew up the Nord Stream pipelines last September, intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests.
The New York Times reported the news Tuesday, citing officials who said there was no evidence of involvement by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, any of his top lieutenants, or any government officials.
The strength of the evidence, however, is not clear, and U.S. officials declined to inform The Times on the nature of the intelligence or how it was obtained. They reportedly added that the intelligence indicates neither who the group’s members are nor who funded and directed the operation.
The Times’ sources said they believe the saboteurs were most likely Russian or Ukrainian nationals and that they possibly received specialized government training in the past.
It’s also possible that the group behind the attack was a proxy with covert ties to Kyiv, the report added.
When three of four Nord Stream pipelines were found to be severely damaged last year, the revelation shook markets and sent European gas prices soaring. Nord Stream 1, which was completed in 2011, and Nord Stream 2, which had been laid down but wasn’t yet operational, supplied Germany and by extension the rest of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas.
Following the explosions, Poland and Ukraine blamed Russia, and Russia blamed Britain. Other observers speculated that Ukraine might be behind it too.
More Ongoing Investigations
Last month, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in a Substack article that the United States military carried out the attack and that President Biden authorized it himself. However, Hersh’s report cited only one anonymous source in support of its central claim, so it was largely dismissed as not credible.
Western governments expressed caution on Wednesday in response to The Times report.
“There are ongoing national investigations and I think it’s right to wait until those are finalized before we say anything more about who was behind it,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
Russia, by contrast, pounced on the opportunity to renew its demand for inclusion in a proposed international probe into the pipeline explosion.
The Ukrainian government denied any involvement in the Nord Stream explosions.
On Wednesday, multiple German media outlets reported that investigators have largely reconstructed how the attack happened, pinning the blame on six people who allegedly used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland.
German officials reportedly searched a vessel suspected of carrying the explosives in January, but the investigation is ongoing.
The country’s defense minister suggested the explosions may have been a “false flag” attack to smear Ukraine.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
Turkey, Syria Earthquake Death Toll Rises to 41,000 as Survivors Pulled from Rubble
A pair of brothers spent around 200 hours trapped under debris, living off of protein powder and their own urine.
A Humanitarian Crisis Explodes
The number of confirmed dead from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last week has surpassed 41,000.
Millions more people have been left stranded without adequate shelter, food, clean water, or medical supplies.
At night, the region has dropped to below-freezing temperatures.
Now health authorities are worried that the lack of sanitation infrastructure, which was damaged by the quakes, will lead to a disease outbreak.
“We haven’t been able to rinse off since the earthquake,” 21-year-old Mohammad Emin, whose home was destroyed, told Reuters.
He was helping out at a clinic serving displaced people in an open-air stadium, but with no showers and only six toilets, the resource shortage was poignant.
“They are offering tetanus shots to residents who request them, and distributing hygiene kits with shampoo, deodorant, pads and wipes,” added Akin Hacioglu, a doctor at the clinic.
The World Health Organization monitors the population for waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid, as well as seasonal influenza and COVID-19.
Rescuers Race Against the Clock
After more than a week of searching, hopes that more living victims will be found amid the collapsed buildings are fading, but rescuers continue to pull out the final few survivors.
Abdulbaki Yeninar, 21, and his brother Muhammed Enes Yeninar, 17, spent about 200 hours under rubble in the city of Kahramanmaras before they were extracted Tuesday. They told reporters they held on by eating protein powder, drinking their own urine, and swallowing gulps of air.
In the same city, teams dug a 16-foot tunnel through debris to rescue a woman, and to the south, a volunteer mining crew joined the efforts to save another.
With no homes to go back to, some survivors have joined the ranks of volunteers themselves.
In the past week, more than 35,000 Turkish search-and-rescue teams worked alongside thousands of international workers in the effort, according to Turkey’s emergency management agency.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called the earthquakes the “disaster of the century” and said in a statement that at least 13,000 people were being treated in hospitals.
The death toll is expected to rise even further in the coming weeks.