On Wednesday morning, Florida representative Matt Gaetz posted a video of men handing out money to people allegedly part of the migrant caravan traveling through Central America to the United States. Gaetz accompanied the video, which he initially claimed was shot in Honduras, with a wildly racist conspiracy theory that questioned whether a U.S. NGO or George Soros was behind the payments.
It didn’t take long for the story to spread to Donald Trump, who reposted the footage on Thursday with the caption: “Can you believe this, and what Democrats are allowing to be done to our Country?” Trump has been vehemently threatening the migrant caravan for several days, threatening to detain and deport migrants when they reach the border (applying for asylum is legal), and even raising the prospect of declaring martial law to use the army to stop them. He’s been on one.
The problem is, the video doesn’t show even remotely what Trump and Gaetz imply it does. On Thursday afternoon, Luis Assardo, a Guatemalan journalist and security consultant both tracked down the location of the video and spoke to people involved.
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Here’s the start of his thread—I’ll give a rough translation of his process here.
Assardo used the name of the shop visible in the video and the identifying watchtower-like structure near it to track down the shop itself on Facebook and Google Earth.
Turns out, the shop isn’t in Honduras, it’s in Chiquimula, Guatemala, a small city on the CA-10 highway. Assardo then tweeted that he spoke to locals:
I managed to speak with residents of the area who told me that merchants in the sector gathered money and gave it to people #CaravanaDeMigrantes. With this it is confirmed that the published by @RepMattGaetz is vague and biased. This is how disinformation is disseminated.
I messaged Assardo to ask if he had any more information. He said the location is near the entrance of Chiquimula, which he said is populated by a lot of farmers, merchants and also narcos.
“So, that said it is unknown if there was money from local narcos, but it could be,” Assardo told Splinter. “Local residents don’t talk much about this with journalists.”
He explained that it’s certainly possible that some of the money came from organized crime in the area, but such groups occasionally do things out of goodwill for local communities, which is “why people don’t confirm or deny about that when I asked them.” From what the locals told him, the money was collected by merchants—either way, it was being given to migrants already on the caravan (likely so they could buy supplies), not to people so they would join. Assardo said he’s gotten a lot of questions about the armed man in the video, but explained that that’s pretty common in Chiquimula.
After many, many people in his replies pointed out the correct location of the shop, Gaetz issued an “update.”
He did not walk back any comments as to whether or not this was a plan by George Soros or the Democrats, and not an act of goodwill by strangers.