To understand the workings of this latest botched Venezuelan regime-change scheme by a 60-man sea-borne assault group from Colombia, it’s necessary to take into account the fragmentation among Venezuelan opposition extremists. What may be called the “radical opposition” – those anti-Chavistas who favor overthrowing Maduro by any means possible and are skeptical of the electoral road to power – is divided. There are two radical opposition camps and considerable resentment, if not animosity, between them. The sector headed by Juan Guaidó, after having undertaken several abortive and embarrassing attempts to overthrow Maduro with the support of Washington in 2019, is now more cautious having learned something from those frustrating experiences. The other, which includes former Venezuelan military officer Clíver Alcalá who fled to Colombia, is bolder, if not adventurist. The most important political figure in this second camp is the well-known political leader who aspired to be the opposition’s united presidential candidate in 2012, María Corina Machado. This more extreme fringe criticizes Guaidó for managing a huge amount of money as a result of generous funding from the Trump administration and elsewhere, and not using more of it to support direct action against the Maduro government. Machado, for instance, harshly criticized Guaidó for engaging in negotiations with the Maduro government that were sponsored by Norway on grounds that those talks discouraged street protests in Venezuela and created false expectations.
According to the declarations of the scheme’s mastermind and ex-Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau, made in an interview with Venezuelan journalist Patricia Poleo, who also belongs to the most radical faction of the opposition, makes clear that Guaidó is not at all opposed to military means to power. According to Goudreau, Guaidó was at first on board with the plan but then grew wary of it, realizing it was doomed to failure. The Colombian government and Washington appear to have been equally wary of this half- baked scheme, after supporting some of the wild ones that were carried out in 2019. This may explain why both Bogotá and Washington have thwarted Alcalá’s actions. But wary does not mean that they were opposed to the venture per se.
The Guaidó camp of the radical opposition, which is openly and actively supported by the Trump and Duque administrations, does not discard military actions to overthrow Maduro. There is abundant evidence to back the claims of Venezuela’s UN ambassador Samuel Moncada and other Maduro government spokespeople that the Colombian government knew of the plans spearheaded by Goudreau, as did Washington, and did nothing to block them. The New York Times conducted interviews that showed this to be the case, and also showed that Goudreau was greatly encouraged by the rhetoric coming out of the Trump administration. Obviously Goudreau was confident that once the military incursion showed signs of viability, that the rebels could count on the solid backing of Washington and Bogotá. Furthermore, Mike Pompeo recognized that Washington knows of the origin of Goudreau’s funding, which undoubtedly came from financiers in Miami. U.S. complicity cannot be denied, even though Trump has attempted to do just that. But given the privatization of the regime change strategy in which funds are channeled through private companies (remember Blackwater? in this case, Goudreau’s SilverCorp USA) denial of U.S. involvement is all the easier.