Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro retweeted a false claim on Tuesday that President Donald Trump had the support of armed militias tasked with intimidating voters in the run-up to this year’s presidential election.
Maduro retweeted the comments of Argentine left-wing political analyst Atillo Boron, who claimed that Trump had employed “armed militias” in Louisville, Kentucky, to intimidate the general public, posting a photo of what appeared to be a march in Trump’s favor featuring legally armed citizens.
Socialist dictator Hugo Chávez made private firearms ownership illegal in Venezuela before his death in 2013.
“USA: What would the spokesmenof [sic] the BULLSHIT NEWS (JMS, NC, JL, AL, DL, etc) say if they saw an image like this in Caracas or Buenos Aires?” Boron wrote. “They would cry out to heaven. But it’s Trump’s armed militias in Louisville and that’s no problem. Media hitmen obedient to their masters.”
EEUU:¿qué dirían los vocerosde la BULLSHIT NEWS (JMS, NC, JL, AL, DL, etc) si vieran una imagen como ésta en Caracas o Buenos Aires? Pondrían el grito en el cielo. Pero son las milicias armadas de Trump en Louisville y eso no es problema. Sicarios mediáticos obedientes a sus amos pic.twitter.com/8kNoikN51w
— Atilio Boron (@atilioboron) November 3, 2020
Boron provided no sourcing for the image or evidence that the group marching was a militia. A Breitbart News reverse images search did not yield an origin for the photo, though it has circulated widely among leftist social media accounts.
Armed supporters of Trump did organize a counter-protest in Louisville in September, in response to growing rallies and nationwide riots against the police. According to Canada’s Global News, the Trump supporters at the September gathering, “brandishing pistols and long guns, squared off with a group of Black Lives Matter protesters and got into shoving matches. People on both sides screamed, faces inches apart. After about 45 minutes, police cleared the people from the park, but the protests outside Churchill Downs continued.”
Global News identified a militia present at the event: “NFAC — a Black militia group which has protested against police killings of Black people.”
There is no evidence that White House-backed militias have engaged in any sort of intimidation of voters over the course of his presidency.
This cannot be said for the Maduro regime in Venezuela, which since the days of Chávez has used armed gangs, known locally as colectivos, as an integral part of its strategy in transforming the country from once of the most prosperous countries in Latin America to a failed state based on communist Cuba.
In Venezuela, the role of these groups has been the intimidation and coercion of vulnerable and poverty-stricken communities to guarantee their loyalty to the socialist regime. As the country experiences the worst economic and humanitarian crisis in its history, people within these communities are often offered small supplies of food or other living essentials that colectivos can leverage into political support. Those who do not comply face violence.
In her report on the Venezuela crisis last year, the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights and former socialist President of Chile Michelle Bachelet confirmed the existence of such groups, holding them responsible for numerous deaths and the country’s deteriorating social fabric.
“Pro-government armed civilian groups, known as colectivos, have contributed to the deteriorating situation by exercising social control and helping repress demonstrations,” the report noted at the time. “The UN Human Rights Office has documented 66 deaths during protests between January and May 2019, 52 attributable to Government security forces or colectivos.”