Footage Contradicts U.S. Claim That Maduro Burned Aid Convoy
Yet the claim about a shipment of medicine, too, appears to be unsubstantiated, according to videos and interviews.
The United States Agency for International Development, the principal supplier of the aid at the bridge, did not list medicine among its donations. A top opposition official on the bridge that day told The New York Times that the burned shipment contained medical supplies like face masks and gloves, but not medicine. And video clips reviewed by The Times show some of the boxes contained hygiene kits, which the Americans identified as containing supplies like soap and toothpaste.
Yet the claim that Mr. Maduro burned medicine has persisted.
“Maduro has lied about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, he contracts criminals to burn food and medicine intended for the Venezuelan people,” wrote John R. Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, in a message posted on Twitter on March 2.
After being contacted by The Times about these claims, American officials released a statement describing how the fire began more cautiously.
“Eyewitness accounts indicate that the fire started when Maduro’s forces violently blocked the entry of humanitarian assistance,” the statement said. It did not specify that Mr. Maduro’s forces lit the fire.
The aid shipment created a showdown unlike any on the border between Colombia and Venezuela in years.
On Feb. 23, Venezuela’s opposition planned to pierce a military blockade by Mr. Maduro, hoping that the president’s security forces would break with him rather than stop much-needed aid. They argued that a cascade of defections in the military would follow, eventually toppling the government.
Instead, Mr. Maduro’s security forces, along with government-aligned gangs, attacked protesters, who came armed with rocks and Molotov cocktails. One of the aid trucks burned in the melee, igniting the bitter war of words over who was responsible.