Over the past six weeks, Marco Rubio has used his Twitter account to post minute-by-minute updates and lengthy threads on Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, making him a must-follow for anyone keeping up to date with the latest news.
Unlike many of his colleagues, Rubio writes his own posts.
Though Rubio continues to earn widespread praise from Venezuelans, Republicans and most Democrats for keeping Venezuela’s plight in the news, his Twitter account amplified three inaccurate reports in recent days, giving fodder to those on the left who want to negotiate with Nicolás Maduro instead of getting rid of him.
The first instance: widespread reports shared by Rubio, White House officials and other prominent lawmakers that Maduro’s security forces set fire to humanitarian aid at the Venezuela-Colombia border on Feb. 23. Video evidence analyzed by The New York Times showed that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an anti-Maduro protester was the likely culprit.
The second instance was a tweet by Rubio highlighting widespread blackouts in Venezuela over the weekend. He tweeted: “Today another transformer explosion at the German Dam in Bolivar State caused another massive blackout. The result? Critically ill patients have died, the Caracas metro remains out of service & few if any flights have arrived at or departed from Caracas in over 20 hours.”
There is no German Dam in Venezuela. German Dam is a reporter who was writing about the ongoing blackouts. Rubio deleted the tweet after it was online for 24 hours and later said the message was a mistake. “I meant to type ‘Today another transformer explosion in Bolivar State caused another massive blackout according to German Dam,’ ” he tweeted.
The third instance was Rubio’s retweeting of a report from Venezuela-based news outlet VPItv, which he translated into English on Sunday. “Report that at least 80 neonatal patients have died at University Hospital in Maracaibo, Zulia, since the blackout began on Thursday in Venezuela. Unimaginable tragedy. Heartbreaking.” Wall Street Journal correspondent Juan Forero said the report was inaccurate. “Actually, sources at the hospital said no neonatal deaths recorded as of this afternoon,” Forero tweeted in response.
The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that 21 people died in hospitals without backup generators during the ongoing blackout, though the number was shared by Venezuelan opposition deputy José Manuel Olivares and could not be independently confirmed.
Rubio said Tuesday he has no plans to change his social media presence.
“Independent journalists in Venezuela are doing a great job under tremendous circumstances,” Rubio said. “A very prominent one [Luis Carlos Diaz] was just arrested today by the special police. To the extent we can give them voice by tweeting out their reports, I’m going to do that as often as I can to be supportive of their work.”
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