[News] Debunking Four Mistruths About Venezuela’s Humanitarian Aid Showdown

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 27 17:26:49 EST 2019


  Debunking Four Mistruths About Venezuela’s Humanitarian Aid Showdown

Feb 27th 2019

February 23 saw the latest attempt by the White House, its right-wing 
regional allies, and self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido to 
oust the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro, this time by trying to 
undermine Maduro’s authority and forcibly violate Venezuela’s borders 
under the pretext of bringing in “humanitarian aid.”

Given that not a single truck, boat or plane entered the country, and 
that Venezuela’s armed forces remained steadfast in their defence of the 
national sovereignty, it can be said that Trump’s and Guaido’s primary 
objectives were a failure.

They did, however, achieve some level of success in their secondary goal 
of further satanizing Maduro in the eyes of the world.

By provoking a series of violent confrontations along the Colombian and 
Brazilian borders, the Trump-backed opposition has managed to 
manufacture a false narrative designed to delegitimize the Maduro 
government and justify further foreign military intervention. This 
narrative has been uncritically disseminated by the international 
corporate media. In what follows, we debunk four lies repeated ad 
nauseam by the mainstream press.

    *1. Who burnt the aid trucks?*

One of the oft-repeated lies is that Maduro ordered the burning of two 
large aid-laden trucks attempting to cross the bridge which connects 
Venezuela and Colombia in Ureña.

Mainstream media latched on to the story, stating as fact that “Two 
[trucks] were burnt to a cinder and two were stolen by Mr Maduro’s 
forces,” as The Telegraph reports.

The context here is crucial: as the images show, the trucks burst into 
fire some 50 metres away from the piquet of the Venezuelan Bolivarian 
National Guard (GNB) and Bolivarian National Police (PNB).

According to testimonies 
the right-wing protestors as well as Colombian policemen on the other 
side of the bridge, the GNB and PNB used tear gas and rubber bullets, 
neither of which are flammable nor capable of penetrating the gas tank 
of a large truck. No live rounds, grenades, or flamethrowers were used 
by Venezuelan state security personnel. As such, the claim that the GNB 
or PNB set the trucks on fire is hard to fathom.

By contrast, the opposition activists were seen hurling Molotov 
cocktails, while standing only metres from the trucks. These reports 
were confirmed by on-the-spot journalists, including teleSUR reporter 
Madelein Garcia and others 

Moreover, Garcia reported that it was the very same opposition militants 
who set fire to the truck, publishing photos that appear to show 
demonstrators pouring gasoline on the vehicles.

“Here is the evidence that those who burnt the truck with the supposed 
humanitarian aid in Urena were the same guarimberos [violent protesters].”

Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez, for his part, has 
alleged that the protesters were paid to set the trucks on fire, 
pointing to a video of a scuffle 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUle_v7H1XE> between opposition 
supporters and Venezuelan National Assembly Deputy Jose Manuel Olivares 
who was in charge of the “aid” operation on the Venezuela-Colombia 
border. Rodriguez claims the fight was sparked by a payment dispute, but 
did not offer further evidence to support his claim. Venezuelan media 
outlet Lechuguinos also interview 
<http://www.lechuguinos.com/guarimberos-jose-manuel-olivares/>unnamed sources 
allegedly involved in the protests who claim to have been promised up to 
US $4,000 for torching the truck.

While it remains impossible to determine with absolute certainty the 
cause of the burned trucks or the potential malintent behind it, all 
reports and basic logic contradict the generalised conclusion that the 
responsibility belongs to the Maduro administration. Likewise, we must 
ask the perennial question, cui bono? The answer is unambiguous: Trump, 
Guaido, and all those forces seeking to rationalize the violent ouster 
of Maduro by presenting him as a bloodthirsty dictator who is keeping 
desperately needed aid from his own people.

    2. Is the Maduro government really blocking international
    humanitarian assistance?

Another of the great mistruths circulating in international media 
is that the Bolivarian government is blocking all international efforts 
to supply vital food and medicine, while The Guardian 
claims, “Hungry Venezuelans living nearby are wondering when they will 
next eat.”

The truth, rather, is that Caracas has requested and is currently 
receiving international humanitarian assistance, especially from 
multilateral bodies like the International Red Cross (IRC), the United 
Nations (UN) and regional healthcare organisations. The government has 
only blocked what these same humanitarian bodies have criticized as 
“politicised <https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14316>” aid coming from 
the US State Department’s notorious USAID branch, which looks to 
instrumentalize aid as a tool of regime change.

Only 48 hours before the February 23 border showdown, Maduro announced 
that his government is coordinating US $2 billion worth of “technical” 
humanitarian assistance 
with the UN and the EU-led International Contact Group. This is close to 
20 times what the US and its allies have pledged to Venezuela. While the 
Contact Group is yet to issue a formal comment, astatement from the EU 
some days later <https://www.voltairenet.org/article205316.html> 
confirmed that the body has provided more than €60 million in 2018 and 
2019 in international assistance to the country through official 
government channels.

As part of this aid, it was reported that Venezuelan authorities 
supplied the UN/EU with a list of medicines which they have been unable 
to purchase in the international market largely as a result of US-led 
financial sanctions. They are requesting international assistance in 
purchasing these goods, offering to pay for them in full.

Speaking to a host of followers at the end of a rally in Caracas 
Saturday, Maduro committed his government to buying all food products 
which Brazil is willing to sell to them, and announced that a7.5 tonne 
shipment of medicines from Russia arrived 
in the Caribbean nation over the weekend in coordination with the 
Pan-American Health Organisation.

The corporate mainstream media has conveniently ignored the pointed 
criticisms voiced by the UN, IRC, and over 70 Venezuelan and 
international humanitarian organizations 
over Washington’s “politicization” of aid efforts. Nor have 
international outlets reported that both the UN and IRC have recently 
that they will be increasing long-existing aid initiatives in the 
country in coordination with the Maduro administration.

    *3. How many soldiers deserted?*

If all the above wasn’t bad enough, the international media is 
regurgitating unsubstantiated claims from the US government, Colombian 
authorities, and the Organisation of American States (OAS) that more 
than 100 Venezuelan soldiers deserted on February 23, a figure which 
Mike Pence elevated to 200 on Monday. Colombian authorities further 
increased their official count to over 300 on Tuesday. To date, no clear 
evidence for these claims has been provided, and given the political 
interests of the players, they should elicit skepticism.

The alleged figures have been repeated by the mainstream press, with one 
recent report from BBC correspondent Orla Guerin 
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-47352295> mentioning over 
100 desertions but publishing a photo with only seven soldiers. A video 
<https://twitter.com/jguaido/status/1099847579678973953> showing Guaido 
addressing soldiers in Colombia was released Sunday, but the numbers do 
not appear to match the desertions claimed.

The most famous “desertion” took place in the early hours of February 23 
when three Venezuelan national guardsmen drove a pair of armoured cars 
across the Simon Bolivar bridge and handed themselves over to Colombian 
authorities. Prior to surrendering to Colombian forces, the rogue 
guardsmen had rammed their vehicles into the barrier on the Venezuelan 
side of the bridge, injuring a police officer and a Chilean 
photojournalist in what eyewitnesses reported as a deliberate effort to 
injure bystanders.

Further on-the-spot video footage also shows Venezuelan opposition 
activists on the Colombian side telling local police that the alleged 
deserters are “Ours, [they are] with us!” hinting that it may have been 
a pre-planned “desertion.”

While no exact numbers exist of soldiers who left their posts on 
Saturday, the claims being circulated by the mainstream media so far 
have not been backed by photographic or video evidence, or on-the-ground 

    4. Did the aid contain medicine?

Another canard reproduced by the international media is the notion that 
Washington’s aid shipment contained, in addition to food, essential 
medicines for sick Venezuelans condemned to die by Maduro.

“Almost 200 tonnes of aid in a convoy of trucks has been waiting to 
cross several border bridges - including food and medicine - and the 
tear gas was fired as protesters tried to stop the aid from being 
destroyed,” Sky News 

However, this assertion has been called into question since Saturday. 
According to New York Times reporter Anatoly Kurmanaev 
<https://twitter.com/AKurmanaev/status/1100075672951754758?s=19>, the 
trucks that the opposition tried to force across the border contained 
“no medicine” at all, with reports that a “small” amount of medicine was 
being stockpiled in Cucuta not confirmed by USAID. Initial inventories 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14316>from USAID made no mention of 
medicine, listing only basic food and personal hygiene products amongst 
the “aid”.

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