Spanish – In addition to the health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the countries of the region are confronting a disinformation network that operates internationally. Geolocation tracking has shown that more than half of the messages that have called for protests in Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador since October 2019 have come from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, and these messages have not stopped.
Some 58% of the accounts that disseminated content about the protests in Chile and Colombia originated in Venezuela. About 7.6 million digital interactions were analyzed (including postings on YouTube, Facebook, Telegram or WhatsApp public groups, and digital news media). Only 0.5% of users generated more than 28% of the content in both countries.
According to the Chilean IT company ConnetaLabs AI, of the 4.8 million tweets published between October 20 and November 5 by 2,000 accounts that had the most influence, the ones from Venezuela stand out. These include the account of Nicolás Maduro himself as well as members of his regime, accounts from state-funded media such as Telesur, and the Russian pro-government publication RT, whose local correspondent is Erika Ortega Sanoja, whose cover photo on Twitter is with Hugo Chávez and Diosdado Cabello.
An analysis of 4.8 million tweets from 639,000 different Twitter accounts that used hashtags in favor of the protests in Chile were found to mostly originate from Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Cuban accounts https://t.co/pgs4QRyZwk via @LatAmGoesGlobal
— Christopher Sabatini (@ChrisSabatini) April 16, 2020
According to the report of the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, these protests are part of the Bolivarian Alliance’s deliberate strategy to destabilize the region. The efforts are led by the Maduro regime, designed to push social protest to violent extremes.
According to the report, “Providing resources to well-trained cadres and front groups located in each country to incite violence costs only a few hundred thousand dollars, yet results in millions of dollars worth of damage to each government.”
The Bolivarian Alliance led by Venezuela and its regional allies includes the Daniel Ortega regime in Nicaragua, radical populists like Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) of El Salvador and Colombian guerrilla groups FARC and ELN among other. The Bolivarian Joint Criminal Enterprise (BJCE), which is financed through illicit activities such as cocaine trafficking and illegal gold mining, also plays a key role.
Although we can resort to high-level research to ascertain the role of Caracas and Havana in the destabilization of Bogotá, Quito, and Santiago, we need to only review the speeches of Bolivarian leaders to see the evidence their role in this wave of attacks against democracy and freedom in the region.
“We (the BJCE) are organized, we are more than 100 organizations whose goal is to overturn the current political structure,” states Florencia Lagos Neumann, former cultural attaché in the Chilean Embassy in Cuba, at the International Communication Conference hosted by Maduro’s United Socialist Party (PSUV).
“Chile is not the most unequal country in the region”
The demonstrations in Chile began as a protest against the alleged inequality that exists in this country. But “Chile is not the most unequal country in the region when measured by income. While this is something that has been firmly established in the most recent rhetoric, over the last 25 years, the figures for inequality have fallen. Today, we are in a more equal country than we were in 1990″, Bettina Horst, an economist with Liberty and Development Chile, told PanAm Post.
However, more than 376,000 Chileans were left unemployed as a direct consequence of the subversion that paralyzed the country and was driven by the Chilean left and its allies in the region.
“Don’t be cannon fodder for the communists.”
At least 78 subway stations were destroyed. Nothing deepens inequality more than unemployment. So the protesters’ lack of social sensitivity was exposed.
This is not a campaign for the interests of the impoverished workers, but the instrumentalization of “idealistic youth” in the service of the most brutal tyrannies in the region.
Those who instigate the protests from spheres of power keep their jobs and suffer no harm to their physical integrity, while at least 23 Chileans lost their lives during the demonstrations (mainly in the factories and supermarkets that were set on fire). Consequently, in the streets of Santiago, we see what is known as a counter-discourse, a rhetorical tool to refute those who impose an official story. They ask the demonstrators not to be “cannon fodder for the communists.”
Chile deported foreigners involved in pillaging and arson
On the morning of Friday, December 13, Chile expelled 56 foreigners who were staying illegally in the country, 12 of them accused of having participated in the looting and vandalism that attacked the economy during the demonstrations “against the system” that began on October 18.
By mid-November, Chile had already expelled 50 foreigners “for engaging in looting, being involved in disorder, attempting to undermine authority, and setting up barricades,” including 30 Cubans, nine Venezuelans, and one Bolivian.
Estamos dando continuidad al proceso migratorio ordenado, que da la bienvenida a quienes vienen a aportar a Chile, pero es claro con quienes se mantienen de forma ilegal o delinquen. Hoy expulsamos a 56 ciudadanos extranjeros, algunos con ordenes de detención x vandalismo/saqueos pic.twitter.com/ZXFKydP50Q
— Felipe Guevara Stephens (@FelipeGuevaraSt) December 13, 2019
While the majority of Venezuelans are legitimately fleeing the humanitarian catastrophe in their home country, regional intelligence sources for IBI Consultant (a Latin America-focused research firm specializing in mapping transnational organized crime and illicit actors through expert fieldwork and open-source data mining) say there is strong evidence that the Maduro regime, despite publicly dismissing the refugees flows as propaganda, is quietly promoting the exodus specifically to destabilize the region and lessen internal economic pressures.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) figures, of the estimated 5.1 million Venezuelan refugees, half reside in Colombia (1.82 million), Ecuador (366,000), and Chile (455,000). This migratory wave and the insufficient international assistance given to deal with the humanitarian crisis has left governments with no resources to mitigate unrest or meet rising social demands.
What happened in Chile, says IBI, was not an isolated incident. The phenomenon of social protests which turned violent and ultimately threatened to topple governments flared across Latin America at the end of 2019. These protests primarily targeted the leaders who have vocally and stood against the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela: Piñera in Chile, Lenín Moreno in Ecuador, and Iván Duque in Colombia. All three leaders saw their popularity sink to historic lows and continue to face crises of governability and legitimacy.
Destruction of historical heritage
The iconic Plaza Baquedano (Santiago de Chile), paradoxically renamed Plaza Dignidad or Dignity Square, was again vandalized after it was restored to its original form as demonstrations diminished during the COVID-19 quarantine.
The youth of the Communist Party celebrated this action. They are publicly declaring it on social media. The subversives dressed in lab suits who vandalized the place again are blatantly visible.
⭕ Qué linda te había quedado #PlazaBaquedano Esperancita, pero…duró menos que Mauricio Rojas como Ministro de #Piñera‼️Aguante la gente bella que volvió a pintar con las consignas del pueblo la #PlazaDignidad que vió nacer el despertar del pueblo de Chile ✊🏼 #Volveremos pic.twitter.com/DeWJLCnORV
— JJCC Chile #YoApruebo #NuevaConstitucion (@jjcc_chile) April 20, 2020
The role of the FARC in the protests
For more than a decade, the Chilean Communist Party sent dozens of its members to be trained in the FARC’s camps. IBI Consultants has identified these militants as key provocateurs in the burning of metro stations in Santiago, Chile, which resulted in damages worth 300 million USD.
The FARC guerrillas also played a key role in the protests against the government of Lenín Moreno. Numerous members of the FARC, Bolivian instigators, and Venezuelan agents provoked the burning of government buildings, including the Comptroller’s Office, which held evidence against Rafael Correa and 22 members of his cabinet under investigation for irregularities.
Of course, in FARC’s home country, Colombia, the vanguard of the most violent protests were led by civilians with strong ties to the FARC, the ELN, and the Chavista regime.
Chile is the country that has best handled the coronavirus in the region
Now all three countries must face the health crisis implied by the COVID-19. Despite multilateral attacks and criticism of its privatized health system, Chile is the country that has best dealt with the pandemic in the region. This is primarily because, as the most prosperous nation in the region, it has had sufficient resources to deal with the situation.
According to Chilean biomedical expert Esteban Zapata, “while several presidents of the region and the world ‘ignored’ the coronavirus as if it were a ‘simple cold,’ Chile already monitored tourists who came from areas with coronavirus cases such as China and, later, from Italy and Spain. And he points out that the country did so amid a social crisis characterized by demonstrators fighting “against the neoliberal system.”
N° de Test totales de Covid-19 x 1000 habitantes.
Chile realiza más test que México, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay y Colombia juntos. pic.twitter.com/KbT6hmI8kD
— Esteban Zapata (@EZC86) April 17, 2020
How to deal with the riots?
To combat the riots and disinformation campaigns, the IBI Consultancy recommends a two-fold strategy: first, recognize that Venezuela is only the most visible part of a large network of criminalized state and non-state actors. Then, develop an overarching policy of attacking the network’s financial and political architecture. Second, significantly bolster support for countries attacked by the BJCE through coordinated counter-messaging efforts and help in understanding and dismantling the network on a regional basis.
Otherwise, it warns that the BJCE will continue to undermine democracy and the rule of law among regional allies confronting the Castro-Chavista tyranny.