[News] Western Media Fall in Lockstep for Cheap Trump/Rubio Venezuela Aid PR Stunt

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Mon Feb 11 12:30:53 EST 2019


  Western Media Fall in Lockstep for Cheap Trump/Rubio Venezuela Aid PR

By Adam Johnson - FAIR - February 11, 2019

The Trump administration’s now completely overt effort to overthrow 
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro had a very successful public 
relations effort this week, as major Western media outlets uniformly 
echoed its simplistic, pre-packaged claim that the Venezuelan government 
was heartlessly withholding foreign aid:

  * Tensions Rise as Venezuela Blocks Border Bridge in Standoff Over Aid
    <https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/07/americas/venezuela-aid-blocked-bridge-intl/index.html> (*CNN,* 2/7/19)
  * Maduro Blocks Critical Aid Sent to Venezuela
    <https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2019/02/07/venezuela-blocked-bridge-aid-crisis-kiley-dnt-lead-vpx.cnn> (*CNN*,
  * Aid Arrives at Venezuela Border as US Demands Maduro Let It In
    News,* 2/7/19)
  * Venezuela Crisis: Pompeo Demands Aid Corridor Opened
    <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-47143492> (*BBC*, 2/7/19)
  * The US Says Maduro Is Blocking Aid to Starving People. The
    Venezuelan Says His People Aren’t Beggars
    (*Washington Post*, 2/8/19)
  * Humanitarian Aid Arrives for Venezuela — But Maduro Blocks It

All of the above articles—and scores more like it 
the same script: Maduro was blocking aid from the US “out of refusal to 
relinquish power,” preferring to starve “his own people” rather than 
feed them. It’s a simple case of good and evil—of a tyrannical, paranoid 
dictator not letting in aid to feed a starving population.

Except three pieces of key context are missing. Context that, when 
presented to a neutral observer, would severely undermine the cartoonish 
narrative being advanced by US media.

 1. *Both the Red Cross and UN warned the US not to engage in this aid
    PR stunt.*
 2. *The bridge in question is a visual metaphor contrived by the Trump
    administration of little practical relevance.*
 3. *The person in charge of US operations in Venezuela has a history of
    using aid as a cover to deliver weapons to right-wing mercenaries.*

(1) Not only has the international aid community not asked for the 
“aid,” earlier this week, both the International Red Cross and United 
Nations warned the US to explicitly /not/ engage in these types of PR 
stunts. As* Washington Post *contributor Vincent Bevins pointed out 
<https://twitter.com/Vinncent/status/1093835945764442112>, the 
transparent cynicism of these efforts was preemptively warned about by 
the groups actually charged with keeping starving people fed:

    *Red Cross Warns US About Risks of Sending Aid to Venezuela*
    <https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/red-cross-warns-u-s-about-risks-of-sending-aid-to-venezuela> (*PBS
    NewsHour*, 2/1/19):

    The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned the United
    States about the risks of delivering humanitarian aid to Venezuela
    without the approval of security forces loyal to President Nicolas

    *UN Warns Against Politicizing Humanitarian Aid in Venezuela*

    UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations warned on Wednesday against
    using aid as a pawn in Venezuela after the United States sent food
    and medicine to the country’s border and accused President Nicolas
    Maduro of blocking its delivery with trucks and shipping containers.

Indeed, as Bevins also noted 
<https://twitter.com/Vinncent/status/1093836995770699777>, the Red Cross 
has long been working with local authorities inside Venezuela to deliver 
relief, and just last week doubled its budget 
<https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-venezuela-politics-redcross/international-red-cross-steps-up-aid-operations-in-venezuela-idUKKCN1PV1WC> to 
do so. We have ample evidence the Maduro government is more than willing 
to work with international aid when it’s offered in good faith, not when 
it’s a thinly veiled mechanism to spur civil war and contrive PR 
victories for those seeking to overthrow the government. It’s not just 
Maduro—as the Western media are presenting it—who opposes the US aid 
convoy; it’s the UN and Red Cross. Why do none of the above reports note 
this rather key piece of information, instead giving the reader the 
impression it’s only the stance of a sadistic, power-hungry madman?

(2) Despite dozens of media outlets giving the impression (and sometimes 
explicitly saying 
that the Venezuelan government shut down an otherwise functioning 
pathway into the country, the bridge in question hasn’t been open for years.

It’s true the Venezuelan government appears to have placed an oil tanker 
and cargo containers on the bridge to prevent incursion from the 
Colombian side, but the other barriers, as writer and software developer 
Jason Emery

/the-tienditas-bridge-blockade-f240728fe5f7">noted, have been in place 
since at least 2016. According to *La Opinion* (2/5/16 
<https://www.laopinion.com.co/cucuta/tienditas-el-puente-de-40-millones-de-dolares-que-no-han-estrenado-106377>)/,/ after 
its initial construction in 2015, the bridge has never been open to 
traffic. How can Maduro, as the *BBC* suggested 
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-47143492>, “reopen” a 
bridge that was never open?

The reality is *BBC* and other Western media were just going along with 
the narrative pushed by Sen. Marco Rubio and Trump Secretary of State 
Mike Pompeo, not bothering to check if their primary visual narrative 
was based on a bad faith, context-free PR stunt.

This point is a relatively superficial one, but in a long term PR battle 
to win over Western liberals for further military escalation, the 
superficial matters a lot. Rubio and the Trump administration cooked up 
a gimmicky visual metaphor, and almost every outlet uncritically passed 
it along, often making factually inaccurate assumptions along the 
way—assumptions the Trump State Department and CIA coordinating the 
effort knew very well they would make.

(3) The Venezuelan government has an entirely rational reason to suspect 
the US would use humanitarian aid as a cover to smuggle in weapons to 
foment armed conflict: The person running quarterback 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/26/elliott-abrams-venezuela-us-special-envoy> for 
Trump on the current Venezuela operation, Elliot Abrams 
<https://fair.org/home/scandal-what-scandal/>, literally did just that 
30 years ago.

 From the first two paragraphs (emphasis added) of a 1987* AP*/*New York 
Times* article on Elliott Abrams, “Abrams Denies Wrongdoing in Shipping 
Arms to Contras” (8/17/87 
Kevin Gosztola 

    Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams has defended his role in
    *authorizing the shipment of weapons on a humanitarian aid flight to
    Nicaraguan rebels,* saying the operation was ”strictly by the book.”

    Mr. Abrams spoke at a news conference Saturday in response to
    statements by Robert Duemling, former head of the State Department’s
    Nicaraguan humanitarian assistance office, who said he had* twice
    ordered planes to shuttle weapons for the Contras on aid planes at
    Mr. Abrams’ direction* in early 1986.

It’s literally the same person. It’s not that Maduro is vaguely paranoid 
the US, in general, would dust off its 1980s’ Contra-backing Cold War 
playbook, or some unspecified assumption about a higher-up or two at 
State. It’s literally the exact same person in charge of the operation 
who we know—with 100 percent certainty, because he admitted to it—has a 
history of using aid convoys as a cover to smuggle in arms to right-wing 

It’s all playing out right now, in real time. The same actors, the same 
tricks, the same patently disingenuous concern for the starving poor. 
And the US media is stripping it of all this essential context, 
presenting these radical regime-change operators as bleeding heart 

The same US media outlets that have expressly fundraised and run ad 
campaigns on their image as anti-Trump truth-tellers have mysteriously 
taken at face value everything the Trump White House and its 
neoconservative allies have said in their campaign to overthrow the 
government of Venezuela. The self-aggrandizing “factchecking 
brigade that emerged to confront the Trump administration is suddenly 
nonexistent as it rolls out a transparent, cynical PR strategy to 
delegitimize a Latin American government it’s trying to overthrow.

/The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not 
necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff./

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