#AlertaVenezuela: September 01, 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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Maduro’s pardon received with skepticism on Twitter

Twitter users greeted an announcement of a pardon for the Maduro regime’s political opponents with skepticism on August 31, 2020. An analysis of over 60,000 posts made up to 7:30 p.m. (Caracas time) on August 31 showed that the most retweeted posts were critical of the move, which was regarded as illegitimate and insufficient.

The presidential decree, according to the regime, will end criminal cases against over 100 people, some of whom were in prison or exiled. It did not, however, include important opposition leaders such as Juan Guaidó, who is recognized by over 50 countries as the interim president of Venezuela; Leopoldo López, Guaidó’s political mentor; and Julio Borges, Guaidó’s presidential envoy for foreign affairs. The amnesty comes ahead of the congressional election tentatively scheduled for December 6, which the opposition and the interim government led by Juan Guaidó are boycotting after declaring an absence of fair voting conditions.

The top tweets argued that the Maduro government’s move was not legitimate, because those that were persecuted and imprisoned had not committed crimes. Posts also claimed Maduro was an illegitimate leader, described those that received the amnesty as regime hostages, and stated that, despite giving this amnesty, Maduro was still a dictator.

Screencap of the most retweeted posts; the last three tweets (orange boxes) were in support of the Maduro regime announcement. (Source: DFRLab via Meltwater Explore)

A social network analysis also showed that accounts that opposed the move received more retweets than those that supported the announcement.

Graph mapping mentions of the word “indulto” (pardon) on Twitter between 12:01 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on August 31. Nodes (dots) represent accounts and edges (lines) represent retweets. Pro-Maduro accounts are in the purple cluster, while the other cluster (in green, blue, and red) is made of accounts that were skeptical of the announcement. (Source: @luizabandeira/DFRLab)

Meanwhile, official and partisan accounts pushed the hashtag #NicolásHombreDePaz (“Nicolás man of peace”) in support of Maduro’s move. As of 7:30 p.m. (Caracas time) on August 31, the hashtag had been tweeted some 31,000 times. The most retweeted posts were from Maduro’s communications ministry and from his party, PSUV. These tweets followed the regime’s talking points, emphasizing what was described as Maduro’s commitment to peace and dialogue.

Image showing the most retweeted posts using the hashtag #NicolásHombredePaz. (Source: DFRLab via Meltwater Explore)

Talk of the Country

In the Media

On August 27, press agency Reuters published “Exclusive: Iranian vessel loads with Venezuelan alumina, amid closer ties – sources.” The article cited three sources who revealed that an Iranian-flagged vessel loaded a cargo of alumina – a synthetic form of aluminum oxide – in Venezuela after delivering supplies for Megasis, a recently opened Iranian megastore in Venezuela. According to Reuters, despite that it could not ascertai the customer for the cargo nor its final destination, alumina is a key material for manufacturing aluminum, which Iran has used “in its missile program at a secret facility set up by the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.” Reuters identified the vessel as “the Golsan,” which departed in May from Bandar Abbas in Iran and set sail from Venezuela on August 19. Reuters found the vessel loaded 14,000 tons of alumina at Venezuelan state-owned CVG Bauxilum’s port.

In Venezuela on August 26, independent website Runrun.es published “Restricción de vuelos en Venezuela no aplica para el crimen organizado” (“Flight restrictions in Venezuela do not apply to the organized crime”). The article described that six Venezuelan aircraft have been seized abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, after originating from the country on March 13, 2020. Runrun.es also said that, while the Maduro regime has suspended private and commercial flights, “drugs, weapons, and ringleaders” have been traveling on flights arriving to or departing from Venezuela. Runrun.es said Honduran authorities reported the most recent seizure on August 24. The aircraft was loaded with almost a half of a ton of cocaine as well as light and heavy weapons. Runrun.es quoted different media reports showing that Venezuelan airplanes had been confiscated in different countries, such as Mexico, the United States, and Cape Verde. In the latter, the authorities arrestedColombian businessman and Maduro’s diplomat Alex Saab on June 12, 2020.

What’s Trending

On Social Media

The hashtag #6Dic (“December 6”), which refers to the tentative date for the next Venezuelan parliamentary elections, trended on Twitter on a number of days since August 23, garnering nearly 29,000 Spanish-language tweets, according to a DFRLab query using social media monitoring tool Brandwatch. As the December 6, 2020, Venezuelan parliamentary elections approach, social media-related narratives have emerged. On Twitter, the posts that used the hashtag #6Dic also included keywords such as Asamblea (“Assembly”), elecciones (“elections”), voto (“vote”), pueblo (“people”), and democrática (“democratic”).

Official Statements

While Venezuelan Deputy @JuanRequesens, a member of @AsambleaVE, is now reunited with his family, Requesens isn’t free. Juan should of NEVER been arrested, his only crime was speaking out against the brutal regime in #Venezuela. Maduro should release all political prisoners.”

– Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida, on Twitter on August 29. Rubio quoted a tweet by Juan Guaidó, who announced Requesens house arrest after 751 days in prison.”

Enemies of the Homeland! I’m president because the People’s Power is alive, it exists and rules our country. It’s the people who decided by free vote to elect me, and will elect the next December 6 to a new National Assembly. We’re and will always be a free and sovereign country!”

– Maduro on Twitter on August 30, 2020.

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