Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Operation Gideon: An Argument for PMF Licensing Reform

     In 2018, former US Special Forces medic and marksman Jordan Goudreau founded SilverCorp USA, a Florida-based private security firm. In February of the following year, SilverCorp provided security for Richard Branson’s anti-Maduro protest event in Colombia. This contract put Goudreau in contact with exiled Venezuelans strongly in opposition to Maduro’s regime. Over the next two years, Goudreau and SilverCorp would find themselves increasingly involved in an international disaster that has been compared to the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion. The failure of Goudreau’s operation adds to the list of international crises involving US PMFs and further emphasizes the need for stricter licensing requirements and more rigorous federal oversight of these security contractors.

After providing security for the Richard Branson event, Goudreau held a series of meeting with exiled General Cliver Alcala and Venezuelan political strategist JJ Rendon. These meetings were intended to explore ways to depose Maduro and facilitate opposition leader Juan Guaido’s takeover of the Venezuelan government. General Alcala was already training exiled Venezuelans in remote camps in Colombia. Goudreau and SilverCorp was going to secure funding and assist in training needed to carry out the coup attempt referred to as Operation Gideon.

SilverCorp attempted to supply the camps with weapons, but the shipment was confiscated by Colombian officials. Furthermore, on March 28th, 2020, Venezuelan official Diosdado Cabello announced that Maduro’s regime was aware of the camps in Colombia and had intelligence on the Americans involved. Despite the lack of equipment and blown cover, Operation Gideon commenced. On May 3rd, 2020, Operation Gideon operators, including two Americans, were detained as they attempted to enter Venezuela by sea.

The failure of this operation jeopardized US foreign relations and resulted in the imprisonment of American citizens. Despite Gaudreau’s claim that Guaido approved of his actions, SilverCorp ultimately was not properly licensed to carry out this activity. Similar to the Blackwater security contractor massacre of civilians in Iraq, Operation Gideon created a foreign relations problem for the United States. Had SilverCorp been properly licensed by both the United States and Venezuelan officials, the disaster could have been avoided. The United States needs to reform its PMF licensing procedures to facilitate more direct federal oversight of private security contracts, especially when they involve international operations. Private contractors provide cost-saving and political benefits to states. However, under current regulation those benefits are off-set by the risks of foreign relations disasters such as those caused by Operation Gideon.

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