Russian propaganda in Latin America

Facts, half-truths, rumors, lies, and fake news mixed with weight loss tips, sports, and shows, all presented by journalists: this is the daily menu of the media in many Latin American countries.

And the Russian state media in these markets systematically present such a menu, because behind it is targeted misinformation.

The Spanish-language TV channel Russia Today (RT), Actualidad RT, quickly gained popularity since its launch in 2009. The channel already has 18 million followers on Facebook and almost six million on YouTube – much more than the English channel on the same state-run Russian television.

“Russia is using its hosting of the 2018 FIFA World Cup to break into the Latin American media market,” said Mario Morales, a professor of social communication at Columbia’s Haveriana University, in an interview. According to the professor behind the screen of supposedly non-political sports broadcasts, “Moscow is trying to present RT as an alternative that does not spread propaganda and does not protect state interests.” The professor claims that RT has not only broken into the Latin American market but has already built a large community of “loyal customers”.

Actualidad RT has significant resources

“The Russian media easily penetrated the Latin American market because they are like many media in Latin America itself, which are extremely formal, but defend the interests of the government,” Argentine media specialist Adriana Amado told the State News Agency. She recalls that in many countries in Latin America there are media with clear propaganda goals – along with those that adhere to professional journalistic standards.

According to official RT information, the television employs 200 Spanish-speaking staff, and the channel maintains offices in Caracas (Venezuela), Havana (Cuba), and Buenos Aires (Argentina). After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this television was blocked on many social networks, but its products are still accessible to the general public by detours. In the program of Actualidad RT after the beginning of the war, the last trace of criticism disappeared – Russian aggression is unconditionally supported. Actualidad RT Deputy Director Inna Afinogenova, who is also the most popular face of this television in Latin America, maintains her own YouTube channel, where she comments on both world events and the absurdities and controversies in which some Latin American politicians are involved. And the audience likes that. But the influencer did not fail to justify the persecution of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“Information space is poisoned”

Inna Afinogenova’s style is very popular with conspiracy theorists. Her most important stylistic devices can be described as: “They are hiding it from you” and “Now I will tell you something you will not find in the traditional media.” Adriana Amado explains, and Mario Morales adds that Afinogenova “works” in a genre that is especially popular in Latin America – biased journalism.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also sparked a war for journalistic supremacy on the Spanish-language Internet, said Virginia Marin, founder of a social media monitoring agency in Venezuela. She explains that “the information space on social networks is poisoned”, just like in Russia. But for people, these networks are “the most important and sometimes the only source of information”, especially in countries with authoritarian rule. Marin cites the example of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, where she says censorship, propaganda, and disinformation on the Russian model have long been institutionalized.

“Especially in Venezuela, the Russian version of what is happening is reaching a wide range of people. There are two reasons: President Maduro’s support and the disinformation spread by state television. They justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and downplay it by arguing that the United States often does the same. “, says the expert.

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