A video analysis published Sunday by The New York Times contradicts claims by senior Trump administration officials and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) that Venezuelan forces loyal to President Nicolás Maduro were responsible for a fire last month that consumed trucks attempting to carry food into Venezuela.
According to Times’ video analysis, which the paper based on unpublished TV footage, the fire appears to have been the result of a Molotov cocktail thrown from the Colombian side of the Veneuzuela-Colombia border — that is, from the side of protesters attempting to escort the aid supplies across a bridge into Venezuela, rather than from Maduro’s forces on the Venezuelan side of the border.
The Trump administration has for weeks asserted that Juan Guaidó, the leader of the Venezuelan opposition, is the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. The burning trucks provided rhetorical ammunition for the administration’s call for Maduro’s ouster.
Senior Trump officials including National Security Adviser John Bolton, USAID Administrator Mark Green and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed Maduro’s regime was responsible for the fire.
Maduro has lied about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, he contracts criminals to burn food and medicine intended for the Venezuelan people, and now he is lying about purported aid from Russia. https://t.co/yQDscA6CSq
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 2, 2019
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted that the trucks were “burned by Maduro.”
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
But the Times’ investigation appears to show that the statements were incorrect.
Responding to the Times, a Rubio spokesperson said “Maduro bears full responsibility for the destruction of humanitarian aid.”
A spokesperson for the National Security Council, which Bolton leads, said: “Maduro is responsible for creating the conditions for violence … His thugs denied the entry of tons of food and medicine, while thousands of courageous volunteers sought to safeguard and deliver aid to Venezuelan families.”
(The Times reported that claims medicine was among the trucks’ cargo are unsubstantiated, as well.)
Watch the Times’ investigation below: