The Dumbest Aspects of the Apparent Coup Attempt in Venezuela

Venezuelan authorities patrol where the alleged attack took place outside Caracas. Photo: Rayner Pena/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

First there was “stupid Watergate,” such an evocative phrase that it was applied both to the Trump camp’s entanglements with Russia and the president’s attempts to leverage aid in Ukraine that eventually led to impeachment. Now, the Trump era has brought us stupid Bay of Pigs: On Monday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced that two Americans were among a group of 13 people arrested for what he described as an attempted coup to overthrow his regime.

In a state TV appearance, Maduro said that the two Americans arrested outside Caracas were “professional mercenaries” named Luke Denman and Airan Berry, who carried ID cards for a Florida-based security contractor called Silvercorp. Maduro equated their alleged efforts to overthrow his government to “playing Rambo” and “playing hero.” He did not mention, however, that the two were not very good at cosplaying the American tradition of violently overthrowing Latin American governments. Below are some of the less thought-through elements of the apparent coup attempt.

They tweeted about the raid while it was in process

It should go without saying that if you’re involved in an alleged attempt to overthrow a government already prepared for interference from a well-funded opposition leader, you should keep it offline. But Silvercorp, the private contractor employing the pair of mercenaries, tweeted about the operation on Sunday while it was still in motion:

Though the age of the private contractor has been in high gear since the beginning of the Iraq War, the challenges of not posting are a more recent development; Blackwater gunmen didn’t carry the extra burden of keeping up their brand while guarding Paul Bremer in 2004.

While the failed raid provided a rare news break from the coronavirus pandemic, the mercenaries’ social media accounts brought a much-needed dose of schadenfreude for critics of the outsourced military-industrial complex, or anyone wishing to see what a bunch of fumbling mercenaries eating hamburgers looks like.

Silvercorp appears to have provided security at Trump events

The Trump administration — gung-ho for the removal of Maduro during a power struggle last year led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó — may not be thrilled to learn that Silvercorp apparently did security for the president’s rallies in 2018. Though the photo has been taken down, Vice News grabbed a screenshot of an Instagram post showing what appears to be the backstage at Trump’s October 2018 rally in Charlotte, with the caption “Protecting our Greatest Assets.” The Associated Press has also confirmed that the company’s head Jordan Goudreau accompanied the president’s longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller to a meeting with Guaido’s representatives in May 2019 in Miami. While the president frequently employs private security at his events, on Tuesday he denied any involvement with the plot.

Denman and Berry apparently brought an Airsoft gun on the raid

As any friend of a kid who lived in the woods knows, Airsoft guns hurt. But they would not be effective weapons for a group of 62 to overthrow a president leading a standing army of over 340,000. According to the investigative site Bellingcat, the cache of weapons that Venezuelan authorities seized from the Americans contained an Airsoft rifle, which are reserved in military settings for training, as they cannot kill a person. (Of the group of 62 mercenaries, the Venezuelan government claimed eight were killed.)

The Silvercorp founder confirmed his involvement, and said his planning was inspired by Alexander the Great

Rather than keep a low PR presence as news of the botched and legally spurious act emanated throughout the world, Jordan Goudreau — who won the Bronze Star on three occasions while serving in Iraq — tweeted about the raid and spoke with an exiled Venezuelan journalist, claiming responsibility for orchestrating the attack. When asked why he would hurl his forces onto the heavily fortified coastline outside Caracas, Goudreau said he was inspired by Alexander the Great, who “struck deep into the heart of the enemy” at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 B.C.

Goudreau did not mention the discrepancy between the size of their forces: 62 compared to an army of over 40,000.

The Dumbest Aspects of the Apparent Coup Plot in Venezuela