#AlertaVenezuela: May 12, 2020

#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.

Top Story

Right-wing and pro-Luis Parra accounts were the most active on Twitter using a hashtag about a failed coup in Venezuela

The hashtag #OperacionGedeon, in reference to the name of the failed attempt to oust Nicolás Maduro from power, trended on Twitter in Venezuela from May 3, 2020, when the first armed clashes and detentions were reported by the Maduro regime, until May 6. Right-wing accounts that previously usedhashtags supporting a foreign military intervention against the Maduro regime pushed the hashtag to trend. An account supporting Luis Parra, Maduro’s illegitimately installed National Assembly President, was among the most active using the hashtag between May 8–9, 2020.
Néstor Reverol, Maduro’s interior minister, announced that security forces intercepted mercenaries near Venezuela’s capital on May 3, where eight were killed and two were detained. On the same day, Jordan Goudreau, a retired U.S. Green Beret, took responsibility for the failed attack.
On May 8, the Maduro regime claimed it infiltrated the operation before May 3, and reported 31 detainees in different Venezuelan states linked to Operation Gedeon. Maduro regime forces announced more detentions would occur in Venezuela on the following days with the support of Russian military advisors. Regime officials cited Juan Guaidó, the United States, and Colombia as supporters of the failed invasion, though both countries, as well as Guaidó,denied participation. On May 8, Guaidó said the operation was a “false positive” orchestrated by the Maduro regime to show Maduro’s Venezuela as capable of defeating any military intervention. He did not present any evidence to back up his claims, and a previous Associated Press investigation did not connect the attack to Maduro.
On Twitter, #OperacionGedeon was used by 41,898 accounts on 125,012 tweets between May 3–10, according to a search conducted using the social media listening tool Brandwatch. The hashtag showed signs of traffic manipulation. Ten percent (4,190) of the most active accounts using the hashtag tweeted it 56,650 times, which means that 45 percent of mentions to the hashtags came from these same accounts. Moreover, this subset of accounts used the hashtag 13.5 times each on average. This suggests that a relatively small group of accounts tweeted almost half of the content, posting the hashtag multiple times to push it to trend on Twitter. The average is abnormally high: organic campaigns that the DFRLab has previously analyzed have shown an average of fewer than two posts per user per hashtag.
An analysis of the most active accounts showed right-wing accounts using the hashtag, but also one account that supports Luis Parra, installed by Maduro as the head of the country’s National Assembly. 
The account @El_Clan_Del_Sur was the most active using #OperacionGedeon, with 277 tweets. The most engaged tweet by @El_Clan_Del_Sur, which supported “patriots” fighting for Venezuelans’ freedom, garnered just 16 retweets and 20 likes, but reached 39,895 impressions – the number of times this tweet was served via Twitter’s timeline or search results for #OperacionGedeon. The accounts @VzlaSiempre7 and @XvzlaLuchamos also were among the most active, with 109 and  93 tweets respectively. These three accounts were previously identified by the DFRLab pushing anti-Maduro and anti-Guaidó hashtags asking for foreign military intervention in Venezuela between January and February 2020, including#NecesitamosAyudaMilitar (“We need Military Support”), #TrumpAyudaMilitarYa (“Trump, military support now” ), and #NoMasEngañoIntervencionYa (“No More Fraud Intervention Now”).

Accounts @El_Clan_Del_Sur, @VzlaSiempre7, and @XvzlaLuchamos (blue boxes) were previously identified by the DFRLab pushing hashtags asking for foreign military intervention in Venezuela. @ActivismoPJYara (red box), a pro-Parra’s account, was the fourth more active using #OperacionGedeon. (Source: @danielsuarezper/DFRLab query via Brandwatch)

@ActivismoPJYara, the account of the pro-Parra Primero Justicia party in Venezuela’s Yaracuy state, was the fourth most active using #OperacionGedeon. It also showed signs of inauthentic behavior: on May 8and May 9, it posted the same video 157 times. The video, originally posted by Parra, demanded that Guaidó explain his alleged participation in Operation Gedeon.

Parra’s video was amplified by @ActivismoPJYara with similar sentences against Guaidó. (Source: @ActivismoPJYara/archive, left; @ActivismoPJYara/archive, right)

Talk of the Country

In the Media

On May 10, The Washington Post published “Venezuela raid: How an ex-Green Beret and a defecting general planned to capture Maduro.” The article describes ex-Green Beret Jordan Goudreau’s background in the Canadian and U.S. armed forces. The Washington Post reports he joined the U.S. Army’s “highly selective Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, a unit responsible for direct-action counterterrorism in Europe that also deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.” The article explains how Goudreau’s private security firm, Silvercorp, led a failed incursion into Venezuela to kidnap Nicolás Maduro. By May 11, the article had garnered 1,413 interactions on Facebook, including shares, comments, and reactions (e.g., likes and emojis), according to results shown by the monitoring tool CrowdTangle.
On May 8, Venezuelan outlet Efecto Cocuyo published “Guaidó admite el acercamiento de Vergara y Rendón con Goudreau pero niega contrato” (“Guaidó admits Vergara’s and Rendón’s rapprochement to Goudreau but denies contract.”) The article describes Guaidó’s comments on Operation Gedeon, in which he admitted the rapprochement between Sergio Vergara and Juan José Rendón, his U.S.-based strategy team, and Jordan Goudreau. However, in this report, Guaidó denied signing a formal contract with Silvercorp, Goudreau’s private firm, that would aim to oust Maduro from power. The contract with Guaidó’s signature appeared on a tweet posted by Miami-based media outlet Factores de Poder on May 3, but its authenticity has yet to be confirmed. According to Guaidó’s report, Operation Gedeon was deliberately infiltrated by the Maduro regime to increase political persecution in Venezuela and to hide the extreme socio-economic distress in the country.

What’s Trending

On Social Media

The hashtag #AlzaLaVozVenezuela (“Venezuela raise your voice”) trended on Twitter on May 5, pushed by accounts supporting center-right opposition partyVente Venezuela. The party’s account was the first to use the hashtag, which denounced the killing of 21-year-old Rafael Hernández during a protest against an electricity blackout in Miranda state.

Official Statements

We have nothing to do with it. If I wanted to go into Venezuela, I would not make a secret about it. I would not send a small little group, it would be called an army…. If we ever did anything with Venezuela it would not be that way, it would be slightly different. It would be called an invasion.”

U.S. President Donald Trump on Fox News on May 8, 2020, when he was asked if Operation Gedeon was an action ordered by the U.S. government.

Trump is so eager to resemble Kennedy, that he even imitates his lies. Just like Trump responds today… In 1961, after mercenaries attacked Cuba from the U.S., Kennedy shamelessly denied his participation. It was later proven that they were behind everything.”

– Maduro’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza posted on Twitter on May 8.

Recent Analyses

From the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center: 

From the DFRLab: On Thursday, April 30, the DFRLab published “How a false story about a Cuban COVID-19 vaccine spread in Latin America.” This report explains how Interferon, falsely touted as a coronavirus vaccine, From the DFRLab: On Friday, May 8, the DFRLab published “Maduro regime exploits return of Venezuelan migrants during pandemic.” This report analyses how Venezuelan and Russian state media, as well as pro-Maduro blogs, amplified the Maduro regime narrative social isolation measures and stalled economic activity in host countries, such as Colombia and Brazil, have left some migrants with no source of income and facing eviction. Maduro weaponized the situation in his favor, despite evidence that returning migrants are facing dire humanitarian conditions made worse by the pandemic.

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