It’s back to the future with Venezuelan ‘Contras,’ the neocons, and the CIA

Donald Trump displayed his full neocon colors on February 18 during a speech at Florida International University in Miami. With convicted Iran-contra felon Elliott Abrams now acting as his “special envoy” in charge of overthrowing the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro, Trump urged Venezuelan military officers to rise up in a coup d’état and oust Maduro, who Trump called a “Cuban puppet.”

Trump’s call for a coup in Venezuela is ironic when his most loyal supporter in the U.S. Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), claimed that senior Justice Department officials who were discussing legally invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office in early 2017 were trying to stage a “coup” against Trump. Coups are unconstitutional in any form, while the removal of a president under the 25th Amendment is following the U.S. Constitution to the letter.

As protesters, who carried signs with “No U.S. Coup in Venezuela” and “Hands Off Venezuela,” staged a demonstration on campus and Trump rattled sabers against Venezuela in his speech on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus, covert U.S. operators were busy at Florida airports shipping arms to Venezuelan paramilitary units in Colombia.

At the same time as Trump was threatening Venezuela with a coup, the Haitian government of President Jovenel Moise and Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant—one of a half dozen remaining allies of the Maduro government in the Western Hemisphere—was faced with an attempted U.S.-led insurrection in his impoverished nation. It is no coincidence that Moise, who was financially buoyed with $2 billion in fuel subsidies and other financial assistance from Venezuela’s state-run PetroCaribe Fund, has faced protests in his country that appear to have been prompted by U.S. “regime change” operatives. Planted in the Haitian media were reports that the Venezuelan fuel assistance funds had been pocketed by Moise and members of his government. That prompted violent protests on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Cap Haïtien, Jeremie, Gonaïves, and Jacmel that have been raging since February 7. More suspicious is that the U.S. State Department ordered all non-essential personnel out of the country following the outbreak of the protests.

On February 17, Haitian police arrested a group of eight heavily-armed men traveling in two cars in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Among the group were five Americans and a Russian, Serbian, and Haitian. The Russian and Serbian may hold permanent residency status in the United States. The Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported that police discovered in the foreigners’ cars automatic rifles, 45-caliber and Glock pistols, a large amount of ammunition, drones, and satellite phones. Also found in the vehicles were a telescope, backpacks, bullet-proof vests, and various documents, including a list of names of Haitian citizens. The vehicles bore no license plates and the suspects’ passports had no Haitian visa entry stamps. The passports did show extensive travel to other countries prior to being in Haiti. Five Haitian license plates were found in the vehicles.

When arrested by police, the eight men refused to provide identification, insisting that they were on some sort of “government mission.” They did not identify the “government” for whom they were working but insisted that they did not have to talk to the police. One of the arresting police officers said one of those arrested told him, “Our boss would call your boss.” After the eight men were arrested, another vehicle pulled up with a man, who spoke French to the police. He was also arrested. There are unconfirmed reports that the eight men arrested had earlier masqueraded as Haitian National Police officers.

The U.S. corporate media has largely refrained from identifying the arrested Americans and the others. WMR is not bound by protocols with the U.S.

Intelligence Community. The men arrested in Port-au-Prince are:

  • Kent Leland KROEKER, born February 14, 1967, USA partner and chief operating officer of Kroeker Partners, a private security firm. Kroeker is a Marine Corps officer veteran who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Christopher Mark McKINLEY, born September 26, 1969, USA
  • Danilo BAJAVIC, Serbian national, born Belgrade, born May 19, 1982, visa stamp for Karasovici, Croatia, dated July 21, 2017
  • Vlade JANKOVIC, Russian national, born October 9, 1978, Russia
  • Talon R. BURTON, U.S. national, born April 9, 1967, USA
  • Christopher M. OSMAN, U.S. national
  • Dustin Daniel PORTE, U.S. national, born February 12, 1976, USA
  • Michael ESTERA, Haitian national, born October 28, 1980, Haiti

In addition to Kroeker, all of the arrested Americans have U.S. military backgrounds. Estera may be a foreign national employee of the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince. It is also noteworthy that Blackwater founder Erik Prince, under investigation for conspiring with Russian, Saudi, and Emirati officials on behalf of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, employs Serbian and Russian ex-military members in his Reflex Responses (R2) mercenary firm, based in Abu Dhabi. Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is education secretary in the Trump administration.

Haitian police chief Michel-Ange Gedeon told reporters that the men would be charged with violation of weapons laws and criminal conspiracy. The U.S. State Department had no comment on whether the arrested Americans had received U.S. consular assistance, to which they are entitled. The Central Directorate of the Judicial Police (DCPJ) is in charge of the investigation of the foreigners.

The 1980s Contra wars of the Ronald Reagan administration were known for the heavy involvement of U.S. mercenaries, who operated in Central America with a “wink and a nod” from the Central Intelligence Agency and a covert coordination team in the basement of the White House, as well as the Pentagon, and State Department. The mercenaries received their orders from National Security Adviser John Poindexter, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, and Elliott Abrams, now Trump’s regime change coordinator for Venezuela. As the Reagan team attempted to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, they were also waging a brutal death squad campaign against leftists in El Salvador and Guatemala. In a repetition of history, the Trump administration has authorized a covert campaign to destabilize the government of Nicaragua, while assisting right-wing governments in Guatemala and Honduras to assassinate leftist journalists, activists, and indigenous leaders. Just as during the 1980s, El Salvador is due to become a staging post for a pro-U.S. rightist government under president-elect Nayib Bukele. Bukele replaces the administration led by the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which was targeted by the Reagan administration during the 1980s with death squads and paramilitary teams.

At the same time the U.S. mercenaries were arrested in Haiti, Venezuelan authorities seized a Boeing 767 jet, operated by 21Air LLC, said to have been carrying arms to U.S.-backed rebels in Venezuela. The Boeing 767 took off on February 3 from Miami, the same city where Trump, championed by right-wing Cuban-Americans and exiled oligarchs from Venezuela, vowed to overthrow Maduro and “socialism” throughout the hemisphere.

The Boeing’s cargo was seized by Venezuelan authorities at Valencia airport. Included in the secret cargo manifest were 9 assault weapons, including AR-15 rifles, a Micro Draco semi-automatic pistol, and a Colt 7.62 rifle with telescopic sights, in addition to 118 ammunition cartridges and military radio antennas. 21Air LLC’s chairman is Adolfo Moreno, who, according to McClatchy News, is linked to Gemini Air Cargo, an airline involved with the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program during the George W. Bush administration and identified as such in a report made by the Council of Europe. The Boeing seized by Venezuela has been busy the last few months, making runs from Miami International Airport to Valencia and Caracas, Venezuela, and Bogota and Medellin, Colombia. 21Air claimed to McClatchy that the Boeing 767 had been chartered by another firm called GPS-Air. 21Air operates a sister firm, 21Cargo, formerly called Solar Cargo C.A.

Moreno is listed in Florida corporation records as also owning South Eastern Aviation LLC of Doral, Florida, Conaire LLC of Miramar, Florida, JW Aviation LLC of Doral; Apple Aviation LLC of Doral; Reliable Transport Logistics LLC of Hialeah, Florida; Freighter 23801 LLC of Hialeah, Freighter 23803 of Doral; Direct Warehouse LLC of Doral; Dynamic Travel LLC of Doral; Enduring Ventures LLC of Miami; and Florida Franchise Development LLC of Miramar. Florida Franchise Development was incorporated by Moreno in 2001 as a subsidiary of Gemini Air Cargo. That firm, along with Airline Management Group, incorporated in 1987, and Gemini Cargo Logistics Inc., the latter a subsidiary of Gemini Air Cargo, all had the same business address of 1750 NW 66th Ave., Miami. According to McClatchy, that address is currently used by Avianca, the Colombian national air carrier. When Trump called for the overthrow of the Venezuelan government, he did so in the midst of dozens of CIA front companies that specialize in carrying out coups, murder, and mayhem.

21Air LLC was incorporated in 2014 and is based in Greensboro, North Carolina, but operates out of Miami International Airport. North Carolina was the location of other CIA proprietary airline front companies involved in the agency’s kidnapping program. These included Air Serv International; Aero Contractors Limited, operating out of Johnston County Regional Airport and the Kinston Regional Jetport; Assembly Pointe Aviation, Inc.; and Water Above Mountain Holdings, LLC of Burlington, North Carolina.

Prior to January, when Maduro was sworn in for a second presidential term, the Boeing 767 had been traveling between Miami, Philadelphia, and other continental U.S. cities.

The smuggling of U.S. weapons to Venezuelan rebels has evoked memories of Elliott Abrams’s antics during the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s. CIA contract airlines, including Southern Air Transport, were busy illegally flying U.S. weapons to Honduras and, via air drop, over Nicaragua, for use by the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Contra guerrillas. One thing about neocons like Abrams and Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton is that they rarely divert from their standard playbooks. Neocons, not being very bright to begin with, find it difficult to “think outside the box,” therefore they repeat the same failed policies and maneuvering over and over again. And that is the clinical diagnosis of insanity.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2019

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

2 Responses to It’s back to the future with Venezuelan ‘Contras,’ the neocons, and the CIA

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