#AlertaVenezuela: November 24, 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.

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Pro-Maduro accounts mock Trump campaign’s claims that Hugo Chavéz helped defraud U.S. election

On Twitter, pro-Trump and Venezuelan pro- Maduro accounts used the attempt by U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyers to prove supposed Venezuelan interference in the November 3 U.S. presidential election. While pro-Trump accounts amplified the lawyers’ claims, the pro-Maduro accounts took advantage of the dubious allegations to suggest that the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez still “drives [the U.S. government] crazy.”

In the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, the DFRLab reported onTrump’s claims – without any evidence – that voting fraud had occurred with the help of Venezuela. On November 12, Trump pointed to Dominion Voting Systems as the company responsible for allegedly deleting votes for him in states that were ultimately won by President-elect Joe Biden. The Trump campaign’s legal team – headed by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani – bolstered the U.S. president’s allegations by misleadingly suggesting the late Chávez and China were behind the supposed malfeasance. The lawyers also claimed that another company, Smartmatic, was involved in the conspiracy against Trump.

As a new attempt to show “the massive influence of communist money” in the U.S. presidential election, Trump’s lawyers held a press conference on November 19. Sidney Powell, a now former member of the legal team, claimed that her office had a “stunning” affidavit that also involved Cuba. Moreover, Powell wrongly suggested that Chávez participated in the fraud, an impossibility given that he died on April 19, 2013. On November 22, Giuliani revealed that Powell was no longer part of Trump’s legal team.

Venezuelan independent journalist Eugenio Martínez debunked the affidavit saying that the witness wrongly changed the dates of the Venezuelan electoral process and legal procedures. Moreover, Martínez highlighted that the witness probably mixed up the Smartmatic system with an identification system that Maduro’s party, PSUV, operated and installed in the voting facilities to monitor the number of voters during the Venezuelan elections.

On Twitter, George Papadopoulos, a former Trump adviser who found guilty of lying to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, was the most retweeted account (with 20,400 retweets as of November 22) amplifying the claims regarding Venezuela. According to a search using social media listening tool Meltwater’s Explore, Papadopoulos’s post was one of the 303,514 mentions that included the keywords “Hugo Chávez” or “Chávez” between November 19 and November 22. Both keywords reached the trending topics on Twitter in the United States and Venezuela between November 19 and November 20.

Papadopoulos’s post was followed by the Twitter accounts of journalist Travis Akers and political pundit Brian Tyler Cohen, with 14,800 and 7,700 retweets, respectively. Taking a different position from Papadopoulos, both Akers and Cohen highlighted the impossibility of Powell’s claim and emphasized that Chávez died in 2013.

Papadopoulos’ post (red box) was the most retweeted post to amplify the Trump campaign’s claims, while Akers’s and Cohen’s posts (green boxes) mentioning that Chávez died in 2013 were the second and third most retweeted, respectively. (Source: DFRLab via CrowdTangle)

Among the 10 most used hashtags used alongside “Hugo Chávez” or “Chávez” were two promoted by Nicolás Maduro’s Ministry of Communications, #ClapEnVanguardia (“Clap [the Spanish acronym for Maduro’s Local Committees for Supply and Production] in the vanguard”) and #ClaseObreraAntiImperialista (“Anti-imperialist worker class”), with 2,045 and 1,951 mentions, respectively.

#ClapEnVanguardia and #ClaseObreraAntiImperialista (green box) were the fourth and fifth most used hashtags alongside “Hugo Chávez” and “Chávez.” (Source: DFRLab via Meltwater’s Explore)

The most engaged-with accounts using the hashtags alongside the keywords reacted to Powell’s false allegations and claimed ironically that Chávez is aliveand at the same time he continues “to drive crazy” the United States.

Talk of the Country

In the Media

On November 22, CNN and The Fuller Project published “Women fleeing Venezuela are being targeted for abuse amid pandemic border closures.” The article describes the situation of Venezuelan women who cross to Colombia or return to Venezuela using illegal border crossings known as “trochas.” The piece discussed the testimony of Gabriela Ochoa, a 21-year-old single mother, who crossed the border with her three children and was raped by a group of armed men in April 2020. According to the article, 100,000 Venezuelans have returned to the country during the novel coronavirus pandemic, “an estimated 5 million or more Venezuelans remain outside of the country,” and more than 5,000 people cross the trochas between Venezuela and Colombia daily. CNN and The Fuller Project, in consultation with Colombian and Venezuelan nongovernmental organizations, revealed that nearly 125 women had experienced gender-based violence but that the Colombian police had only received one report of sexual violence since the pandemic and the Colombian border closure in mid-March. The article explains that women do not denounce the cases, “because members of the police and armed forces are often perpetrators themselves.”

In Venezuela on November 17, Venezuelan independent media alliance Alianza Rebelde Investiga (ARI) published “PDVSA navega en un mar de irregularidades” (“PDVSA sails in a sea of irregularities”). The article describes that, due to mismanagement during both Chávez’s and Maduro’s administration between 2005 and 2017, Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA had lost 3,700 million. ARI investigated 350 documents related to PDVSA’s naval fleet. ARI described that the Chávez administration had contracted the construction of 18 oil tankers to four countries, including an advanced payment of $500 million, but had only received a single boat, with delayed delivery. Moreover, ARI showed that, at the beginning of 2020 amid the economic sanctions, three out of 46 vessels that supported PDVSA’s maritime and river transport belonged to the Venezuelan state.

On Social Media

The hashtag #DondeEstanLos16 (“Where are the 16?”) trended on Venezuela’s Twitter on November 23, 2020. Accounts belonging to independent Venezuelan journalists and opposition leaders, such as Nelson Bocarandaand Juan Guaidó, criticized the government of Trinidad and Tobago for allegedly deporting over 29 Venezuelans, including 15 children and a 4‑month old baby in two ships on November 22. Venezuelan independent media El Pitazo reported that, on the night of November 23, opposition representative Omar González reported – without revealing his source – that some of the children phoned their parents in Trinidad and Tobago and said they landed at Venezuela’s state of Delta Amacuro.

Official Statements

Existen varios niveles: las mentiras, lo absurdo y el ridículo. Sin lugar a dudas responsabilizar al Comandante Chávez por la derrota de Trump en 2020, es en extremo ridículo. Eso sí, semejante muestra de debilidad, tiene a su vez un encanto: es extremadamente chistosa.”

“There are several levels: the lies, the absurd, and the ridiculous. Without a doubt, holding Commander Chávez responsible for Trump’s defeat in 2020 is extremely ridiculous. Of course, such a display of weakness, in turn, has a charm: it is extremely funny.”

– Jorge Arreaza, Maduro’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, on Twitter on November 19, 2020

El mundo no reconoció el resultado del fraude de mayo de 2018. No van a reconocer el fraude que está en marcha [para] el 6 de diciembre por que sabemos que ese régimen no puede fortalecerse o buscar legitimidad a través de otro proceso ilegítimo.”

“The world did not recognize the result of the May 2018 fraud. They will not recognize the fraud that is underway on December 6, because we know that this regime cannot be strengthened nor seek legitimacy through another illegitimate process.”

– James Story, U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, on Instagram on November 19.

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