#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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TOP STORY: U.S. Department of the Treasury
On October 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued an order giving Juan Guaidó’s team three months to “restructure or refinance payments” by suspending the terms of some financial sanctions, which – if implemented – would have foreclosed on Venezuelan-owned Citgo’s oil refineries in Texas and which were originally meant to pressure Nicolás Maduro from office. The move was intended to shield Guaidó, who is recognized as interim President of Venezuela by more than 50 countries as of June 2019, from losing control of Citgo.
Citgo is a Houston-based company with U.S.-based refineries, owned by Venezuela since 1980. The company’s worth is estimated at $8 billion and is considered Venezuela’s most valuable asset abroad. By preventing the foreclosure, Guaidó retains access to those assets as a means of rebuilding the country.
In a Twitter post on October 24, Guaidó posted: “For years, the regime indebted the nation, mortgaging the future of Venezuelans, who today suffer from a complex humanitarian emergency. Thanks to the support of the Government of #EEUU (U.S.), and its confidence in our management, we are managing to maintain the assets that the regime looted.” The tweet has reached 1,900 retweets and 3,000 likes to date.
According to BuzzSumo, a social media listening tool, between October 24 and October 29, 60 articles mentioned Citgo and Guaidó. These articles garnered 2,490 engagements for an average of 42 per article.
TALK OF THE COUNTRY
The most shared and liked article about Venezuela across international media between October 24 and 29 was “OEA confirma que Cuba e Venezuela financiam protestos violentos no Chile e Equador” (“OAS [Organization of American States] confirms that Cuba and Venezuela finance violent protests in Chile and Ecuador”), published by Movimento Brasil Livre, a right-wing movement. The article garnered 80,200 likes, shares, and other types of engagement on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit combined. The piece described the OAS statement, published on October 16, 2019, as a confirmation of the interference of Cuba and Venezuela in the protests in Chile and Ecuador. The OAS report suggested that Cuba and Venezuela continue to export political polarization and destabilization of democracy through the financing, support, and promotion of political and social conflict.
In the national Venezuelan press, the article that amassed the most interactions on social media between October 24 and 29 was “Diosdado Cabello: Venezuela es vanguardia de un proceso liberador de los pueblos” (“Diosdado Cabello: Venezuela is at the forefront of a process to liberate the people”) and published by the Maduro regime’s official television channel Venezolana de Televisión(“Venezuelan TV”). The article garnered 654 likes, shares, and other engagement on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. The piece promoted a video interview with Cabello in which he claims: “People of Latin America are denouncing their right to be free. Here in Venezuela we did it in 1989.” This statement comes after the OAS denounced the participation of Cuba and Venezuela in the recent protests in Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile.
HASHTAG OF THE WEEK
#NiMarchasNiElecciones187YA (“No protests, No elections, 187 already”)
The hashtag promoted Article 187.11 of the Venezuelan constitution, which affirms the responsibility of the National Assembly to authorize foreign military missions in the country. Retweets comprised 89.4 percent of the mentions, while only 10.1 percent were original tweets.
The hashtag reached almost 10,000 mentions on October 29 and included topics such as “regime,” “socialism,” “military intervention,” “@jguaido” (Guaidó’s official Twitter handle), and “no more communism.”
The account @EquipoTAC, described as a trending-hashtag promoter, was one of the first accounts to mention the hashtag, ultimately using it 34 times.
According to tweets published the night of October 28, the hashtag trended on Twitter at 8:10 p.m. Venezuela time. The accompanying content mainly demonized the Maduro regime, socialism, the upcoming protests that Guaidó has called for on November 16, and the spread of the Castro-style Communism and left-wing governments in Latin America.
“Fue contactado un oficial desde Colombia para que se robara un Igla-S aquí en la frontera del Zulia, le iban a pagar 40 mil dólares para que entregara el Igla-S, para derribar un avión y generar un falso positivo y decir que había sido el ejército venezolano, para buscar la causa de guerra. Están desesperaditos por ver los Pechora, ellos saben que los Pechora son candela pura… que están apuntados directamente hacia el barrio La Candelaria y El Nogal. ¿Por qué? Porque es ahí donde vive la burguesía colombiana.”
“An officer was contacted from Colombia to steal an Igla-S here at Zulia’s border; they would have paid him 40 thousand dollars after the Igla-S was delivered to shoot down an airplane and create a false positive and claim that Venezuelan army was responsible for it, to find a reason to justify a reason to go to war. They [the Colombian government] are desperate to see the Pechora; they know Pechora are pure fire… [the Pechora] are aiming directly at the La Candelaria and El Nogal neighborhoods. Why? Because it is where wealthy Colombian people live.” Diosdado Cabello made the statement on his show “Con el Mazo Dando” (“Giving with the hammer”) on October 23. In his declaration, Cabello suggested that Pechora missiles, a Soviet-era surface-to-air missile, were aimed at two neighborhoods in Bogotá, Colombia. These claims were made after President Ivan Duque said in a speech to the United Nations that he would give the organization a dossier of “conclusive proof” of Maduro’s support for terrorist groups.
“Falsa diplomacia. Todo es una farsa. Venezuela es un muro de contención contra las amenazas del narcotráfico y del conflicto armado de Colombia que se adosa al contrabando, al paramilitarismo y a la violencia generalizada. El falso positivo continúa en proceso de construcción.”
“False diplomacy. Everything is a farce. Venezuela is a retaining wall against threats such as drug trafficking and an armed conflict in Colombia related to contraband, paramilitarism, and general violence. The false positive is still under construction.”Vladimir Padrino, Maduro’s Minister of Defense, wrote in a tweet (archive), after the Colombian government and Luis Almagro, OAS General Secretary, urged the international democratic community to “reject the direct threats from Venezuela’s dictatorship against the Colombian people” on October 25.
The false positive – according to Venezuelan officers – is in reference to the same conspiracy Diosdado Cabello was promoting in his statement above: that Colombia’s strategy was “to shoot down an airplane” using a stolen Igla-S, a Soviet-era man-portable air defense system common to Venezuela’s arsenal, in order to claim that the airplane had been shot down by Venezuela, thus predicating a military intervention.
WHAT WE ARE READING
Almagro denuncia “Patrón” de desestabilización de Venezuela y Cuba en la región (“Almagro condemns destabilization pattern from Venezuela and Cuba in the region”), VOA
Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, describes a destabilization pattern coming from Venezuela and Cuba in Latin American countries, such as Colombia, Ecuador, and, more recently, Chile. Almagro attributed — based on the statement from October 16 — responsibility to Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and Miguel Diaz-Canel in Cuba for recent anti-government protests in the region.
Sergei Storchak, Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister, said Maduro had asked for continued cooperation after Russian experts visited Venezuela. Russia is considering sending a permanent delegation of economic advisers to resolve issues with foreign creditors in the country. According to IMF experts, inflation in Venezuela has reached almost 10 million percent in 2019, and the production and export of goods have dropped significantly.
DFRLab and ACLatAm IN THE NEWS
Jason Marczak, director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, spoke with the Miami Herald about the recent unrest in Latin America and the Caribbean, including in Venezuela, as well as Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Honduras, and Haiti. The story was reprinted in various US and regional outlets, including the Union Bulletin, The Fall River Herald News, and Venezuela’s Globovision, among others.
Diego Area, associate director for Venezuela at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, spoke with Carla Angola at El Venezolano TV about the Interim Government’s achievements at this year’s UN General Assembly, its efforts to promote a democratic transition, and about the crises in Peru and Ecuador.
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