Maduro Repeats Twitter Hoax About U.S. Aid in Televised Speech

Regime leader repeated the false claim after pro-Maduro Twitter accounts spread forged screenshots about United States aid to Venezuela

@DFRLab
@DFRLab
Mar 21, 2019 · 6 min read
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(Source: @noalsilencio/DFRLab via Eneas de Troya, front; @SUKOICRIOLLO, background)

Unknown Source

On February 10, a piece appeared on the website of Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), a state-owned TV network, claiming that a study “developed by” the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) stated that “the companies that manufacture food sent as humanitarian aid, similar to the aid the United States has sent to the [Venezuelan] border with Colombia, use preservatives that are harmful to health.” The piece was widely republished across government websites.

Fake Screenshots

Starting on February 10, pro-regime Twitter accounts, including @GipsyGastello and @SUKOICRIOLLO, spread a false screenshot from the Colombian newspaper La Opinión that claims that 14 people fell ill in the border city of Cúcuta after consuming food from the U.S. aid package.

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Translation from Spanish, at left: “So, in Cúcuta they WERE working as ‘BOX GUYS, they took some bags of ‘HUMANITARIAN AID’ to try at home, and REALITY hit them in their stomach. 14 people ENDED UP with food poisoning, diarrhea, and fever* DEHYDRATED food (sic).’ At right: “I guess that serious, ethical media, guardians of the truth, will be on the headlines of all newspapers, radio station, and television. I guess. I GUESS. I GU-ESS!” (Source: SUKOICRIOLLO/archive, left; GipsyGastello/archive, right)
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Word clouds for the Twitter biographies of the users who retweeted @SUKOICRIOLLO’s (top) and @GipsyGastello’s (bottom) tweets. (Source: @noalsilencio/DFRLab via Sysomos)
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Translation, from Spanish: “BREAKING NEWS. URGENT. COLOMBIA. People are in critical condition after eating products from boxes sent by the United States for alleged humanitarian AID. Literally, [the food] exploded in [their] stomach, because the chemical components were activated and begun to boil in their stomach. For those who do not know, these products have chemicals that activate in contact with water and liquid and begin to boil. We are leaving you some photos to give you an idea of how they work.” (Source: DOLAR JODEY/archive)
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Translation of the headlines, from Spanish. At left: “Children and adult die in Cúcuta after eating products from humanitarian aid package.” At right: “11-year-old child dies in Cúcuta of liver failure after eating products from humanitarian aid package.” (Source: Yankee_Latina/archive, left; RebeldeRed4F/archive, right)

Conclusion

Regime leader Nicolás Maduro and other top Venezuelan regime officials have been amplifying the false claim that Venezuela-bound aid coming from the United States has killed people in Cúcuta, a Colombian border city where part of the aid is stored. This hoax was based on unconfirmed reports quoted by state media and on forged news media screenshots that have been confirmed as false. The false claim is being spread with the likely aim of discrediting the efforts of self-declared Interim President Juan Guaidó to direct food and medicines to the country.


DFRLab

@AtlanticCouncil’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

@DFRLab

Written by

@DFRLab

@AtlanticCouncil's Digital Forensic Research Lab. Catalyzing a global network of digital forensic researchers, following conflicts in real time.

DFRLab

DFRLab

@AtlanticCouncil’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. Catalyzing a global network of digital forensic researchers, following conflicts in real time.

@DFRLab

Written by

@DFRLab

@AtlanticCouncil's Digital Forensic Research Lab. Catalyzing a global network of digital forensic researchers, following conflicts in real time.

DFRLab

DFRLab

@AtlanticCouncil’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. Catalyzing a global network of digital forensic researchers, following conflicts in real time.

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