Florida Sen. Marco Rubio appears to have shared fake information over the past month as part of an attempt to oust Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro, according to a scathing report published over the weekend by the New York Times. Rubio blamed Maduro's forces for burning a bunch of American "aid" trucks lined up at the Colombia-Venezuela border — but newly released footage shows Rubio's own allies actually set the trucks on fire by mistake when a protester's Molotov cocktail accidentally hit one of the trucks.
Colombian officials, who are allied with the United States, appear to have known this fact. The Times noted the Colombian government released doctored footage that intentionally omitted video of the incendiary device flying sideways and landing near the aid trucks. Rubio and his allies have since used the doctored footage to accuse Maduro of "crimes against humanity" for burning the trucks.
Within minutes of the blaze, @marcorubio retweeted an unverified claim and wrote that Maduro's police set fire to the aid. @AmbJohnBolton - in his "new experiment in public diplomacy" - followed suit, as did @USAIDMarkGreen and @SecPompeo. Claims that went all the way to the UNSC pic.twitter.com/TO0X8IsDl6— Malachy Browne (@malachybrowne) March 10, 2019
President Donald Trump has basically deputized Rubio to handle the White House's regime-change efforts in Venezuela. Rubio supported and helped plan Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó's February 23 attempt to ram a bunch of so-called aid trucks across the Venezuelan border — a move that seemed designed to spark violence and generate useful propaganda for the Rubio-Trump-Guaidó coalition.
International aid groups, including the United Nations and Red Cross, told the U.S. not to do anything like this to effect regime change. They said the actions of Guaidó and his allies were likely to worsen the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Rubio, in tandem with warmongering National Security Adviser John Bolton and war-crime-abetting Venezuelan envoy Elliott Abrams, ignored these requests and even attacked the UN for allegedly protecting Maduro.
But while Maduro has unquestionably committed crimes against everyday Venezuelans, last month's so-called aid push appears to have been cynically used by American politicians to generate propaganda.
Guaidó's forces tried to drive most of the "aid" trucks over a single, nonfunctioning bridge that connects the town of Cúcuta, Colombia, to Venezuela. Times reporter Anatoly
Minutes after flames engulfed the trucks, Rubio began tweeting out a Colombian news report that accused Maduro's forces of setting the vehicles on fire by throwing tear-gas canisters at the caravan:
Each of the trucks burned by Maduro carried 20 tons of food & medicine. This is a crime & if international law means anything he must pay a high price for this. #23FAyudaHumanitaria https://t.co/IrGzrOUX09— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 23, 2019
Other Florida politicians — including Sen. Rick Scott and Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart — seized on the false report that Maduro burned the caravan:
.@NicolasMaduro would rather burn humanitarian aid than let it be delivered to the people of #Venezuela. Only a despicable and disgusting human being would do that.— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) February 23, 2019
This is despotism in its purest form. https://t.co/w1Gij79QMr
Commenters began casting doubt on those claims almost immediately. Numerous critics noted it's virtually impossible for a tear-gas canister to set something on fire. Some online critics accused Guaidó's forces of setting the trucks ablaze on purpose.
But within 24 hours, a more accurate theory emerged: Footage from the scene suggested the trucks simply caught fire by accident and that Rubio and his allies seized on the incident, facts be damned. Now, the Times has obtained new, previously unaired footage that proves that point.
Maduro is responsible for countless crimes against Venezuelans. But the burned aid truck you saw on TV may not be one of them. New footage shows the most likely source of the fire was a Molotov, thrown by protestors. https://t.co/VyaJXZWmy2— Nick Casey (@caseysjournal) March 10, 2019
Rubio also seems to have lied about the trucks' cargo. He repeatedly said the caravan was full of medicine, but Times reporters could not confirm that claim. Instead, the trucks seemed to be carrying medical supplies such as gloves and face masks.
Rubio has not commented publicly about the Times report. The story is the latest in a series of propagandistic lies and half-truths from the senator and his cohorts. For instance, Guaidó and his American allies claimed there was video of Venezuelan authorities threatening to open fire on a U.S. aid ship that had set sail for Venezuela from Puerto Rico. But in the weeks since, no video has emerged, and CBS News reporter David Begnaud has all but implied the footage does not exist.
(U.S. Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, two Democrats, were in Colombia over the weekend calling for Maduro's removal.)
Rubio also put his foot in his mouth earlier this year when he referenced U.S. military disasters in Panama and Libya to gin up support for his efforts in Venezuela. The tweets backfired, even among many of his allies.
This is amazing: buried deep in this NYT article is a sentence indicating the Trump economic sanctions are a major cause of the deadly blackout in Venezuela, contradicting the rest of the article. No one has noticed; this should have been the main story: https://t.co/KGDZ4eI17g pic.twitter.com/DYhODSK737— Mark Weisbrot (@MarkWeisbrot) March 10, 2019
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Rubio is still posting gibberish to bolster his cause. Venezuela is experiencing massive power blackouts due, in part, to the Maduro government's mismanagement of utilities. But Rubio made an ass of himself once again. He claimed on Twitter that an electrical transformer exploded at the "German Dam" in Venezuela. In fact, no such dam exists — "Germán Dam" is actually the name of the reporter who broke the news.
Senator @marcorubio, an important transformer exploded in Bolívar and that, in part, again collapsed the Venezuelan Electric System; however it was not in a dam, much less german.— Germán Dam (@GEDV86) March 9, 2019
My name is Germán Dam, I am one of the journalists who published the information.
Rubio has not yet issued corrections for any of the misinformation he's spread online about the trucks. (Though he did apologize to Dam this morning.) He should also apologize for the time he quoted Cardi B’s single “Money” on Twitter while agitating for war against Maduro.