We’re Not Saying They Did It — But This Wouldn’t Be the First Time the CIA Attempted a Coup

May 7, 2020Joshua Skovlund
Luke Denman and Airan Berry. Screen grab from youtube

Luke Denman and Airan Berry. Screen grab from youtube

On May 2, two Special Forces veterans were arrested after attempting what appeared to be a coup d’etat. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has accused the U.S. and Colombian governments of being responsible for this attempted overthrow. The U.S. government denies involvement, and the CIA has declined to comment

The facts of what truly went down are heavily scrutinized. With Maduro suspecting foreign governments and Jordan Goudreau claiming responsibility, it leaves many questioning who was actually behind the nefarious plot. Some theorize that it was an attempt by the CIA — and we can’t blame them for wondering: it certainly wouldn’t have been the agency’s first attempt at regime change in Central and South America. 

green berets
Luke Denman on the left, Airan Berry on the right. Screenshot via Youtube.

To jog your memory, we’ve compiled a handy list of a few of the CIA’s attempts — some successful, some not — to overthrow foreign governments. This definitely isn’t an exhaustive list of the CIA’s efforts, but here’s three to get you started: 

1. Probably the most infamous attempt on our list, the Bay of Pigs invasion was an attempted overthrow of Fidel Castro and his regime. The CIA had located members of the Frente Revolucionario Democratico (FRD) in Miami and trained them deep in the Florida and Louisiana swamps, dubbing them Brigade 2506. After bombing Castro’s air force, the brigade failed to complete the assault and many of them became imprisoned or died attempting to escape across the ocean. It started April 17, 1961, and was deemed a catastrophic failure two days later, with many unhappy with President John F. Kennedy’s lack of support once the invasion began. 

brigade 2506
Brigade 2506 banner. Photo courtesy of the CIA.

2. Operation Ajax was set up by both the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) to overthrow Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh in 1953. After Mossadegh caught wind of the coup, he made several arrests and led the U.S. to believe the coup had failed. The CIA sent a telegram to operators on the ground to call off the coup, but the top CIA agent in Iran, Kermit Roosevelt, ignored it and pushed forward. On Aug. 19, 1953, the coup succeeded and Mossadegh was dethroned.

truman and Mossadegh coffee or die
U.S. President Harry Truman and Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

3. In 1970, the CIA funded three different groups in Chile to prevent Salvador Allende from becoming president due to his socialist beliefs. The CIA’s attempt at preventing Allende failed, and he became the president of Chile. The CIA persisted in their attempts to dethrone Allende, and on Sept. 11, 1973, the Chilean military chased Allende into his presidential palace and surrounded it.

Allende announced via his party radio channels that he would die for the working class before being forced into custody. Allende was given until 11 AM to surrender, which he failed to do, resulting in the Chilean air force bombing the palace. Allende committed suicide by a single gunshot to his head. The CIA was successful in getting rid of Allende; however, that led to the 17-year dictatorship started by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte.

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.

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