People fall for videos claiming to show US army gearing up for assault on Venezuela

Screengrabs of two videos that claim to show the American army about to carry out a military intervention in Venezuela.
Screengrabs of two videos that claim to show the American army about to carry out a military intervention in Venezuela.

If you believed a series of videos that were posted on social media on February 2 and 3, you’d think that the American army was amassing in Colombia in preparation for an attack on neighbouring Venezuela. Currently, Venezuela is locked in a serious political crisis and Donald Trump didn’t rule out the possibility of sending in American troops. However, it turns out that none of these videos actually show the American army mobilising for an attack.


A landing on a Colombian beach?

The first two videos that appeared on social media showed tanks and soldiers on a beach. It is likely that the two videos were filmed in the same location, on the same day, as the background noise and the sounds captured in both are extremely similar. They were posted in a variety of ways on several different platforms, predominantly on YouTube and Twitter. Sometimes, the videos were posted together, sometimes separately. In all cases though, the captions claim that the videos show American troops landing in Colombia (Venezuela’s neighbour and an American ally), in order to mobilise for an attack on Venezuela.

The investigative website Bellingcat launched an open-source investigation into the videos on Twitter on February 3. One person, tweeting under the handle @ConflictsW, said that the videos had been filmed near Ancón Beach in Peru. As proof, he provided a satellite image of the beach, which shows the same hill with a radio antenna on top that features in the two videos.

A journalist from Deutsche Welle then contributed to the discussion by posting another photo of Ancón Beach. The photo was clearly taken near the place where the video was filmed. It seems, then, that the video wasn’t filmed in Colombia, but in Peru.

The website Colombia Check noted that, in 2017, joint military exercises were carried out by the Peruvian Navy and Air Force (along with the armies of 18 other countries, including Colombia and the United States). Several different Peruvian media outlets reported on the beach landings carried out during these military exercises. In one video, the countryside looks very similar to Ancón Beach.

It is highly likely that these videos were actually filmed during these military exercises in 2017.

Helicopters on the border?

Social media users have also been sharing another video that they claim shows the American army mobilising in Colombia. After being posted by a Twitter account called The Miami Voice, it garnered close to 800,000 views.

The account in question, The Miami Voice, claims to be a "developing project” but it doesn’t seem to be affiliated with any media outlets.

However, these helicopters aren’t actually flying near the Venezuelan border -- in reality they are flying over the Colombian capital Bogota. The Colombia Check website reported that a Twitter user who tweets under the handle @smzlr recognised the exact location in Bogota that the helicopter is flying over. It is the intersection between calle 6 and carrera 41A, which lines up with a search on Google Maps. In this photo below, you can see the same road sign as well as a building with a white section in the middle.

In reality, this video was probably filmed during a parade for independence day on July 20, when helicopters fly in formation over Bogota. The video below also shows this air show.

Venezuela has been going through a political crisis since the president of the parliament Juan Guaido named himself interim president on January 23, denouncing the leadership of President Nicolas Maduro. Guaido was then immediately recognised as the legitimate president by the United States and other countries, including numerous European countries, on February 4.

These videos have probably taken off after a photo of US Security Advisor John Bolton holding a notebook with the words "5,000 soldiers in Colombia” written on it, taken January 28.

Although US President Donald Trump said on February 3 that sending American troops to Venezuela was "an option", none of the videos that have been circulating online prove that the United States has started such a deployment.