US officials at the highest levels of the CIA and other key federal agencies were aware of efforts to topple Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro, a retired Venezuelan general who led the conspiracy has emphasized in his bid to debunk ironic criminal charges that he had colluded with Maduro to flood the US with cocaine.
The stunning revelation by the Venezuelan general – identified as Cliver Alcala – came in a court document filed by his attorneys late Friday seeking to nullify narcoterrorist allegations filed against him nearly two years ago by federal US prosecutors in New York, the Associated Press reported Saturday.
“Efforts to overthrow the Maduro regime have been well known to the United States government,” Alcala's attorneys insisted in a November 2021 letter to US prosecutors that accompanied their motion to have the charges dismissed. “His opposition to the regime and his alleged efforts to overthrow it were reported to the highest levels of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council, and the Department of the Treasury.”
The court records raise new questions about what the Trump administration knew about the failed plot to oust Maduro in May 2020 -- involving veteran US Green Beret Jordan Goudreau and a ragtag army of Venezuelan military deserters he was helping Alcala train at secret camps in Colombia around the time of his arrest.
Alcala’s attorneys, the report adds, further underlined that their client’s coup plotting activities against Maduro “were communicated at the highest levels of a number of US government agencies” -- including the CIA, Treasury and Justice departments, the NSC and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Despite such open hostility against the Venezuelan president, however, Alcala and Maduro were charged together “in a second superseding indictment with being part of a cabal of senior Venezuelan officials and military officers that worked with Colombian rebels to allegedly send 250 metric tons of cocaine a year to the US,” according to the report.
Attorneys of the anti-Maduro general are thus seeking documents and information -- much of it classified -- regarding communications between top American officials and members of Venezuela's opposition about Alcala. Those officials include former hawkish Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Attorney General William Barr as well as senior officials at the White House and unnamed CIA operatives in Colombia.
The CIA, the report notes, did not immediately respond to Friday inquiries about the case.
Also named as having knowledge of Alcalá’s anti-Caracas schemes are two key allies of the US-sponsored opposition leader Juan Guaidó — who Washington boasts as Venezuela’s “legitimate” leader — as well as Miami-based political strategist J.J. Rendon, who signed on behalf of Guaidó a never-executed agreement for Goudreau to carry out a kidnapping operation against Maduro.
“The evidence is clear that he has been openly and actively opposed to his alleged co-conspirators for at least the past eight years,” the attorneys further insisted in the letter to US prosecutors included in Friday’s filing. “Indeed, his conduct, in support of the democratic ideals in which he believes, constituted treason against the very people whom the government alleges were his co-conspirators for which they seek his detention, imprisonment, and life.”
Alcala‘s lawyers further revealed that on the eve of launching what would have been his second armed raid against Maduro, the former army major general received a knock on the door of his home in Barranquilla, Colombia by a US law enforcement official informing him that he had been indicted.
“The agent informed (him) that he could either board a private jet bound for New York or be held in a Colombian jail where he would no doubt be targeted by the Venezuelan intelligence services for assassination,” Alcala’s attorneys stated. “Left with little choice, (he) agreed to accompany the agent back to the United States.”
Before surrendering in 2020, the report notes, Alcalá shocked many by claiming responsibility for a stockpile of US-made assault weapons and military equipment seized on a highway in Colombia for what he described as a planned incursion into Venezuela to “remove Maduro,” pointing out that he had a contract with Guaidó and his “American advisers” to purchase the weapons while blaming the US-backed opposition forces in Venezuela for betraying the cause.
“We had everything ready,” Alcalá declared in a video published on social media moments before turning himself in to US officials. “But circumstances that have plagued us throughout this fight against the regime generated leaks from the very heart of the opposition, the part that wants to coexist with Maduro.”
With Alcala held captive in a Manhattan jail, a small group of so-called “freedom fighters” pressed ahead with the kidnapping operation and on May 3, 2020 launched a cross-border raid that was easily crushed by Venezuelan security forces.
“Operation Gideon — or the Bay of Piglets, as the bloody fiasco came to be known — ended with six insurgents dead and two of Goudreau’s former Special Forces buddies behind bars in Caracas,” the report said, adding that the failed operation provided validation to Maduro’s persistent argument that the US was seeking to assassinate him in a terrorist plot.
While Washington has always denied any involvement in violent efforts to topple Maduro, Pompeo’s vague claim that the US had no “direct involvement” in Operation Gedeon left some observers wondering what the Americans may have known about the terror plot in a region where the CIA has a long history of coup-plotting during the Cold War, according to the report.
Alcalá has been living in Colombia since fleeing Venezuela in 2018 after the discovery of a conspiracy that he was secretly leading efforts to oust Maduro. The US, however, offered a $10 million reward for his arrest when Attorney General Barr declared at a press conference that he, Maduro and several other senior Venezuelan officials had been indicted.
Alcala’s attorneys further contend that around 2018, Assistant US Attorney Michael Lockard indicated in various discussions that his office had decided not to charge Alcala with narcotics-related crimes because the evidence against him was “equivocal.”
His lawyers also argue that despite having pored over thousands of documents, video and audio recordings turned over by US prosecutors, they could find no evidence pointing to Alcala’s involvement in the alleged narcotics conspiracy.
Evidence that the US was aware of Alcala‘s clandestine activities could bolster his defense at trial that even if he had been a member of a drug smuggling ring — which he denies — he took steps to withdraw from the criminal conspiracy years before being charged, the report added.