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Rubio Lied About Who Burned the Venezuelan Aid Trucks

Sen. Marco Rubio
Sen. Marco Rubio Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr
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.

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 Kurmanev, who was on the scene that day, noted the plan seemed designed to fail and intended to generate optics instead of helping Venezuelans. It was an attempt by Trump and Rubio to gin up electoral support in South Florida before the 2020 elections. (Even the Canadian Broadcasting Company admitted the "aid" push on the bridge appeared to be an act of "propaganda.") The news about the burned trucks reinforces the point.

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:
Other Florida politicians — including Sen. Rick Scott and Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart — seized on the false report that Maduro burned the caravan:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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