In a gripping tale that reads like the plot of a Hollywood film, AP revealed the failed plot to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro by a ragtag group of 300 volunteers led by a former Green Beret.
The exclusive investigation by Latin America correspondent Josh Goodman focused on the exploits of Jordan Goudreau, an American ex-Green Beret who set his sights on Venezuela after working security at a concert in support of opposition leader Juan Guaidó on the Venezuelan-Colombian border, organized by British billionaire Richard Branson.
Goudreau then joined forces with Venezuelan exiles in an audacious plan to oust Maduro, who is opposed by the Trump administration. The plan called for a group of 300 men to invade Venezuela from Colombia, raid military bases and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in Maduro’s arrest.
They never stood a chance.
The plot ended after one of the coup plotters was caught crossing the border. The co-leader of the effort, a retired major general in Venezuela’s army, is now in jail in the U.S. on drug charges. Authorities in the U.S. and Colombia are asking questions about Goudreau's involvement and the 300 volunteer combatants have been abandoned in the middle of the pandemic.
The seed of the story was planted when an aide to Guaidó casually mentioned to Goodman that he should ask about an American named “Jordan.” Later, when Venezuelan state media showed a picture of Goudreau, Goodman recalled the earlier tip and set off in pursuit. Over the next several months he interviewed more than 30 Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters who were directly involved in or familiar with the planning of the plot.
The well-sourced Goodman, who oversaw Venezuela coverage for years when he was based in Bogota, received a strong assist from investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York, who helped locate military, company and court records to help tell the story.
After the AP story broke on May 1, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the BBC and other international media struggled to catch up. The Post, which apparently had been chasing the story, published its version May 6.
After AP’s exclusive, President Donald Trump was asked about the story and several Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have now sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding answers. The U.S. State and Defense Departments have also been questioned about their knowledge of the raid, and a federal investigation is looking into the raid for possible violation of weapons trafficking. Officials in Colombia are also investigating.
For an impressive scoop on the failed coup that has been dubbed “The Bay of Piglets,” Goodman and Herschaft win AP’s Best of the Week award.