What it’s about: The Sputnik article centers around interviews with two members of the Venezuela constitutional assembly: Saúl Ortega, who previously served as President of the Mercosur parliament, and Julio Chávez. Both men make claims that Saturday’s failed drone attack on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was funded by the Colombian government and upper class, members of the Venezuelan diaspora in Florida, and the U.S. government. Chávez also claims that the attack was coordinated by the Venezuelan opposition and U.S. President Donald Trump. Finally, both men claim that the Colombian “oligarchy” conspired with outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to assassinate Maduro because the Maduro regime has interfered with their wealth by fighting drug trafficking in Venezuela.
Why it’s false: There’s a lot to unpack with this one.
First, as we’ve seen before with our coverage of Russian state-media in the Americas, this article gives a platform for members of the Maduro regime to spread the party line without any context, fact-checking, or interviews with members of the opposition or impartial observers. This is bad journalism; the article presents these politically charged accusations as fact. Both the U.S. and Colombian governments have strongly denied involvement in the attack, and a relatively unknown opposition group within Venezuela has claimed responsibility.
Finally, the unfounded charges that wealthy Colombians were conspirators in the attack because of the Maduro government’s stance on drug trafficking is frankly ridiculous. As we’ve detailed previously in this project, while the Maduro government tends to act tough on drugs, investigative reporting has identified how Venezuela has become a regional hub for drug trafficking and organized crime under Maduro.