#AlertaVenezuela is leading the way in identifying, exposing, and explaining disinformation within the context of one of the Western Hemisphere’s largest crises in recent history, where the fight for control of the information space will continue to pose a challenge for the region.
Videos suggesting the United States attacked Venezuela were the most viewed on YouTube in March
Seven videos of Colombian YouTube channel Noticias de Última Hora Venezuela appeared among the 20 most viewed videos about Venezuela between March 1 and 9, 2021. The videos falsely claimed that Maduro had been captured or that the United States had attacked Venezuela.
According to a search for keywords relating to Venezuela and Maduro using BuzzSumo, Noticias de Última Hora Venezuela posted a video on March 1 that had garnered over 417,000 views as of March 9. The video was the most viewed of the YouTube channel and the third most viewed of the 1,642 videos in the BuzzSumo query. The first and second most viewed videos belonged to Mexican travel YouTuber Alex Tienda.
While Tienda’s videos interviewed people in Caracas’ streets, gave travel tips, and showed political and economic facts to explain Venezuela’s situation based on media reports, Noticias de Última Hora Venezuela’s video used the label Venezuela Libre (“Free Venezuela”) suggesting that the channel supports the downfall of the Maduro regime or condemns the lack of freedom in the country. The videos reported on supposed attacks against the Maduro regime without supporting the claims with evidence. The claims represent a counterpart – as they are being used to fuel negative sentiment toward the regime – to Maduro’s own frequent and often baseless claims about supposed U.S. or Colombian military operations to oust him from power, claims that are intended to engender sympathy toward him.
Noticias de Última Hora Venezuela’s most viewed video used a thumbnail and headline that suggested the United States had “bombarded” Venezuela. The presenter of the first part of the video said – seemingly in a Colombian accent – that the United States had also attacked Iranian militias in Iran in the “last few hours,” as well as claimed that a similar military operation would occur against Iranian troops located in Venezuela. The presenter did not show any evidence to support his claims. The DFRLab found that the last US operation against Iran-backed militias occurred in Syria on February 26, 2021.
Moreover, after minute 7, the video presenter changes to a text to speech application with a Spanish accent to read a February 25 article from Argentinian news outlet Infobae, which reported on a press release by Frente Institucional Militar (FIM), a civil association of opposition military to the Maduro regime. The FIM statement criticized Maduro’s mandate and said the economic, political, and social situation in the country “is getting worse.”
On January 26, 2021, the DFRLab found that Noticias de Ultima Hora Venezuela posted a video that misleadingly claimed that Maduro had been ousted from power and that Maduro’s diplomat Alex Saab had betrayed the regime after confessing to U.S. authorities.
A query using social media listening tool Social Blade showed that Noticias de Ultima Hora Venezuela had posted 1,620 videos between May 19, 2017, and March 9, 2021. According to an analysis of the weekly views gathered by the channel between February 12 and March 8, 2021, the channel garnered most of its views during the last period – March 2 to March 8, with 1,810,448 views.
Talk of the Country
In the Media
On March 5, 2021, Peruvian media outlet El Comercio published “Cruzar a pie el altiplano, la última frontera de los caminantes venezolanos que quieren llegar a Chile” (“Walking across the Altiplano, the last frontier for Venezuelan walkers who want to arrive in Chile”). The article describes the journey for young Venezuelan migrants through the Altiplano and the Atacama Desert to get to Chile, after crossing several borders along the way, including those of Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, and Bolivia. The article compiles testimonies from Venezuelan migrants sharing their thoughts and the challenges during their journey. According to a search using social media listening tool CrowdTangle, the piece collected more than 17,000 interactions on Facebook, including shares, likes, and comments.
In Venezuela, the independent and digital media outlet TalCual published: “Nada más en 2020, Maduro acusó tres tramas conspirativas desde Colombia” (“Only in 2020, Maduro claimed three conspiracy theories linked to Colombia”) on March 6, 2021. The article analyzed the most recent conspiracy theories pushed by the Maduro regime, in which Colombia’s intelligence agency supposedly aimed to target Venezuela’s military defense. “The idea of the foreign enemy is not new in the Venezuelan regime. This also occurred when Álvaro Uribe was president of Colombia and occurred in Andrés Pastrana’s administration as well [Andrés Pastrana was a Colombian president between 1998 and 2002],” explained the article. According to a search using social media listening tool BuzzSumo, the piece garnered 34 engagements on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit combined up to March 9, 2021.
On Social Media
The hashtag #CuarentenaRadicalReforzada (“Radical reinforced quarantine”) trended on Twitter on March 8, 2021, gathering more than 500,000 mentions at the time of writing. Twitter accounts used the hashtag after Maduro’s Ministry of Communications posted it as a “hashtag of the day.” The Ministry campaign was related to Maduro’s announcement on a mandatory quarantine in Venezuela, a measure being undertaken because of a dramatic increase in new COVID-19 infections.
Desde el mes de mayo que supimos de la vacuna rusa, nuestro centro científico la estudiaron, luego la vacuna rusa llegó para las pruebas clínicas fase III a Venezuela, y yo lo dije, voy a ser el primero en vacunarme, como un acto de confianza, de fe, en este poderoso instrumento de la ciencia rusa, de la ciencia humana, que es la vacuna Sputnik-V.”
“Since we first learned about the Russian vaccine in May, our scientific institute has studied it. Later, the Russian vaccine arrived in Venezuela for the phase III clinical trials, and I said: “I’ll be the first to be vaccinated” as an act of trust, faith, in this powerful instrument of the Russian science, of the human science, which is the Sputnik-V vaccine.”
– Nicolás Maduro on Periscope on March 8, 2021. Maduro, however, was not the first Venezuelan to be vaccinated. After Maduro’s first announcement that he would be the first to be vaccinated, his son Nicolás Maduro Guerra received the first dose during the clinical trials in December 2020 and the medical personnel were the first group of the vaccination campaign that started in mid-February 2021.
Mientras el mundo reconoce el coraje de la mujer venezolana, como con esta meritoria condecoración a la lucha de Ana Rosario y el sector salud, la dictadura la amenaza y hostiga. #DictaduraMisógina.”
“As the world recognizes the courage of the Venezuelan woman, which the merited award for the fight of Ana Rosario and the health sector [demonstrates], the dictatorship [the Maduro regime] threatens and harasses her. #DictatorshipMisogynist.”
– Juan Guaidó on Twitter on March 01, 2021.
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