Three men plead guilty for aiding anti-Maduro plot

MIAMI (AP) — Three Venezuelan men pleaded guilty to helping organise an ill-conceived invasion last year to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

In Friday’s hearing before a Colombian court, the men acknowledged their role alongside Jordan Goudreau, a former American Green Beret and Iraq war veteran, in organising a rag tag army of a few dozen Venezuelan military deserters intent on overthrowing Venezuela’s socialist leadership. Plans included raiding military installations as well as the presidential palace.

“I apologise to the Colombian government,” one of the men, National Guard Major Juvenal Sequea, told a judge in Bogota on Friday as he and two other accepted lighter charges of providing advice and logistical support to illegal armed groups. “I accept responsibility for my actions but want people to understand that this is all the result of the consequences of what we Venezuelans are living through.”

The so-called Operation Gideon — or the Bay of Piglets, as the bloody fiasco came to be known — ended in disaster, with six insurgents dead and two of Goudreau’s former Special Forces buddies behind bars in Caracas. But the plot really never stood a chance of succeeding against Maduro’s loyal and heavily armed military after having been thoroughly infiltrated months earlier.

Sequea and his co-defendant Captain Juven Sequea are the older brothers of the confessed commander of the failed May 3 incursion, Captain Antonio Sequea, who is jailed in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. The third person pleading guilty, Rayder Russo, is a civilian who has long sought Maduro’s armed overthrow.

As part of the plea bargain agreement — which the judge is expected to ratify later this month — the men have accepted a single charge that is punishable from six to 10 years in prison. But under Colombian law they can be released on parole or placed under house arrest if sentenced to lesser than eight years, meaning the men could be freed in exchange for cooperation. Previously the men, who have been jailed since their arrest six months ago, had been charged with providing military training to illegal armed groups, a more serious offense punishable of up to 30 years in jail.

None of the men participated in the failed raid, but testimony from other Venezuelan deserters, one of whom was arrested transporting a weapon and a large number of cellular phones, placed each of the men in leadership positions of the plot alongside Goudreau and the plot’s ringleader, retired Venezuelan Army General Cliver Álcala.

Veneuzuelan security forces guard the shore and a boat in which authorities claim a group of armed men landed in the port city of La Guaira, Venezuela. PHOTO: AP