Iris Varela Stars in the Gocho Version of ‘Goodbye, Lenin!’

Photo: El País

The tweets show large crowds of people on the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, the main crossing point between Venezuela and Colombia. The international media has been running stories all year long about the surge of Venezuelans fleeing to Colombia looking for food and other basic necessities. But, according to former prisons minister and PSUV pillar Iris Varela, the opposite is in fact true.

In a tweet shared yesterday, Varela says, “Observe the time and date, in real time, the exodus of citizens from the gringa colony called Colombia into VENEZUELA”:

The scale of the deception here is staggering.

The Simón Bolívar International Bridge might be one of the most photographed on the planet at the moment, as it bears the most visible face of the growing Venezuelan migrant crisis. Thousands of Venezuelans use it to cross into Colombia on a daily basis in the hopes of finding food, medicine and other basic necessities to bring back home.

According to Colombian authorities, as many as 30,000 Venezuelans cross into the country each day, with the majority of them returning to Venezuela to bring home whatever they’ve managed to find. The drama that unfolds on the bridge each day has been documented extensively by media outlets for months.

None of that deterred Varela from publishing images like this one, captioned “Could we now say with these images that there is an exodus of Colombians into Venezuela? IMAGES IN REAL TIME”:

While a great many Venezuelans are relocating permanently to Colombia in record numbers, many others go just for the day to look for food or medical treatment. In all likelihood, what Varela’s tweets show is Venezuelans returning home at the end of a day looking for sustenance in Colombia.

Varela unwittingly provided evidence for this herself by calling attention to the timestamps on the images, all of which show that they were taken in the mid-to-late afternoon. This squares with what we know about migration patterns across the bridge, and strongly suggests that what we’re seeing is the afternoon homecoming of a relative handful of daytrippers.

Look no further for evidence of this than this video shared by NTN24 this morning, taken on the same bridge but looking towards Venezuela (for reference, see Google Maps here):

What Varela did with her nine tweets yesterday goes beyond normal spin. Rather than a mere attempt to mitigate the impact of the images, Varela’s was a bald-faced attempt to turn truth upside down. Varela used reality as a weapon against itself.

Varela’s tweets call to mind Wolfgang Becker’s 2003 film Goodbye, Lenin!, in which a young man fabricates an alternate reality where it’s West Germany that has collapsed, all so that his gravely ill-mother —an ardent supporter of the ruling party in East Germany who was in a coma when the Berlin Wall fell— won’t be shocked to death by the news. Even as his mother lays dying, the son tries to convince her that it’s West Berliners who are now streaming over the wall towards freedom in the East.

In the film, this subversion of reality is entertaining and even moving. On Iris Varela’s Twitter feed, it’s an insult to an increasingly desperate nation and to a watching world. As the grim reality of Venezuela’s collapse becomes more apparent, government officials like Varela will redouble their attempts to deceive in more and more brazen ways.

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