You know how worried the U.S. is about the impact of “fake news” and Russian influence operations in their 2016 presidential election? Well, imagine one of these campaigns used to influence another country, with a far less sophisticated security apparatus, lots of political polarization and distrust of public institutions. Imagine six countries like that, holding presidential elections in the near future, all opposing, incidentally, the Maduro regime. Scared yet?

The Spanish government made public claims about hackers from Russia and “other countries” manipulating the Catalan referendum. Later it was revealed that “other countries” means Venezuela.

This is not the time to be scared. It’s time to be terrified.

Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, Costa Rica and Chile will all be holding presidential elections very soon. Placing a friendly government in power in any of these countries would be a tremendous victory for Maduro’s regime, and a quite possible event: after the Catalan non-referendum referendum, representatives from the Spanish government made public claims regarding hackers from Russia and “other countries” and their spread of fake news on social media. Later it was revealed that “other countries” means Venezuela. Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis even claims there is irrefutable proof of Russian and Venezuelan hackers tried to influence the outcome of the crisis.

Now, this November, representatives from Honduras’ ruling party (the Partido Nacional) announced they had proof that the Venezuelan government tried to influence the outcomes of their presidential election. They even announced that, after a thorough investigation, 60% of the cyber-attacks they received came from Venezuela. Later on, Honduran congressman Juan Diego Zelaya told Fernando del Rincon that what they meant by “cyber-attacks” was a campaign to influence the election by spreading “fake news” on social media, discrediting the ruling party and its candidates.

The whole “fake news” buzz is a real thing, guys: the Brazilian Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) published a study titled “Robots, Social Media and Politics in Brazil” and their findings are troubling. During the 2017 general strike, 20% of online interactions among those who favored it were initiated by bots. This represents an increase of 10% in bot activity compared to the 2014 election, continuing the trend of online support for president Dilma Rousseff in bot accounts. Sabrina Pasos, from Grupo RBS in Brazil, wrote a piece for the International News Media Association in which she referred to Fake News as “Democracy Hacking”.

Latin American governments have a terrible track record of underestimating threats.

You may be optimistic and recall the election of Luis Almagro and his role as Secretary General of the OAS, or Lenin Moreno’s triumph in Ecuador, with their staunch defense of democracy. Consider, however, the Honduran presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla’s interview, in which he said that the news about Venezuela were made up by the international media (and North Korea has a kickass economy, by the way).

Maybe these reports will serve as a wakeup call for Latin American governments to understand the threat “democracy hacking” poses. But the Venezuelan government will go to any lengths to ensure its subsistence and weaken its opponents, and Latin American governments have a terrible track record of underestimating threats.

We’re not in a firestorm, but we can see the clouds from here.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. Weve known for a long time from different reliable sources that the regime has mantined a troll farm for several years now (at some time directed by trained Cuban experts) which use fake identities to penetrate the social webs and try to spread disinformation and more recently opinions that methodically discredit oppo leaders and their organizations with accusations that are never substantiated but which being repeated so often get to be believed . This blog has been the target of such troll attacks by people that use elaborately contrived fake oppo identities to put their message thru. The spanish ministers warning of russian and venezuelan trolls and bots attempting to influence the catalonian crisis deserves to be believed .

    In some countries the internet and socia media dont have the penetration that it has in other places but the presence of these troll farms and activities is certainly to be recognized anywhere in which an election can have results that harm or help the agenda of the Venezuelan regime and its foreign collaborators.

      • Judi Lynn is a frequent poster on a forum dedicated to the Democrat Party, DemocraticUnderground. You won’t be able to engage her in any sort of dialogue. Her MO is to post crap from various Leftist websites, then offer accolades to people who agree with her.

        She doesn’t care that Chavismo is starving people to death. She cares that the Revolucion rolls on.

    • “Si lo pagaste, con suerte lo tendrás después que maduro gane la elección, porque si no la gana, entonces los escuálidos te lo van a quitar.

      Si no lo pagaste, entonces anda a comprar a que’ un chino y deja de jodernos la paciencia, pedazo de marginal.”

      Eso es lo que te va a responder el representante del clap de tu comunidad.

  2. Google search on Venezuela News usually has 1-2 Telesur stories listed on the 1st page. Googles base prioritization is usually drive by $$$$. Those who pay are seen near the top of the search results list.

    No aye pernil porque estan pagano a Google …..

  3. This isn’t fake news. Step-daughter #2 reporting from Maturin this morning that a major Chinese-owned supermarket is being looted. Revolution!!!!

    • MR,
      The parcels are in Miami. The USPS tracking shows that they were received Tuesday evening.
      Nobody is answering the phone at the shipper. If anyone on your end has a contact number from the last shipment, can you ask them to give it a try?
      I’ve sent e-mails. I don’t know if they may be closed this week for a holiday. It seems unlikely. With Maria on the disabled list, it is possible that there is nobody at her desk.
      Vicky spoke to a man in the office a couple of weeks ago. He was the one that explained that Maria is injured. I just need to know that the parcels are being forwarded.
      It is frustrating. Somebody picking up the mail is a good sign. I just would feel better if we could get in contact also.

      • John, I believe it was yesterday I missed your call by about 2 seconds as I was covering the bodega and couldn’t get to the phone in time. If we could agree to a specific time for a phone call, say 5 PM your time (eastern I believe that would be), I can have the phone in hand if you can manage to get the call to go through.

        Most shops are still shut down here, and won’t re-open until next Monday at the earliest……some as late as the following Monday, the 15th!

        • Hi MR
          I feel better knowing that. Vicky suggested that they may be on vacation. I understand that Latin American culture is different than ours.
          I am not used to entire companies going on holiday.
          I will try to call at 5 this evening.

          • I mentioned our conversation to my woman today and she told me that many shops in Maturin will not open until 22 January…..collective vacations and also lack of merchandise.

  4. CARACAS, Venezuela—With hospital shelves bare and the government stumped on how to settle $5 billion in arrears to pharmaceutical companies, cash-strapped Venezuela recently offered some foreign suppliers alternative compensation: diamonds, gold and coltan, the rare metal used to make cellphones and Playstations.

    The proposed exchange perplexed the pharma representatives, whose companies had no policies on accepting precious gems and metals as payment, according to three people familiar with the meeting last month where Venezuela’s health minister made the offer.

    LOL, you can’t make this stuff up!

    • Also from the WSJ,

      Venezuela Misses Another Debt Payment, Raising Stakes for Bondholders
      Latin American nation has $9 billion in bond payments due in 2018
      By Julie Wernau and Imani Moise
      Jan. 2, 2018 5:46 p.m. ET
      Venezuela has defaulted on another debt obligation, according to S&P Global Ratings, intensifying investor fears about the country’s ability to make more than $9 billion in bond payments due in 2018.

    • ***Help Wanted***

      Location: Estado de Bolivar, Venezuela

      Postion: Warlord

      Qualifications: Experience with conflict diamonds and methods of evading international law

      Contact: Diosdado Cabello

  5. Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, Costa Rica and Chile will all be holding presidential elections very soon.
    Chile has already had its election.

    For an example of, if not fake news, at least woefully ignorant news.Understaffed and overextended: How Venezuela’s oil industry fell apart

    “There’s a variety of factors,” says Francisco Monaldi, a Venezuelan oil expert at Rice University.

    Monaldi says that in 2003, Venezuela’s then-president Hugo Chavez fired about half the workforce of the state-run oil corporation, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), for taking part in a strike. About 80 percent of the top managers and engineers lost their jobs. PDVSA never recovered.

    Chavez also started squeezing more and more money out of PDVSA to fund his social programs — money that would have otherwise been reinvested into PDVSA. Monaldi says the oil industry requires a huge amount of capital investment to maintain.

    “Venezuela needs to invest around $8 billion a year just to keep current levels,” says Monaldi. “And the government is investing maybe half of that.”

    While it is correct that PDVSA never recovered from Chavez’s firing the striking PDVSA employees, the article never mentioned how Chavez added many more employees to PDVSA, which makes “understaffed” not quite accurate. Understaffed with competent employees, perhaps.

  6. There has always been tampering with the news. But this time it is different. There is a very big and systematic effort to present an alternate reality, taking advantage of the internet as a platform to create and propagate content in a way it was only possible to do with a newspaper. Moreover, there is an issue of legitimacy, which also only the newspapers had, but now thanks to the wonders of cheap graphic design anyone can obtain. This time it really is different and we are going to need a different approach at doing things.

    • You really do understand the issue, but the solution mostly rests in not allowing engines and sites to put fake news on their home page based on that this exposure equals more profit. But profit is what it’s all about.

      Granted, I’m writing from the comfort of America, and nobody can fucking tell me who can or can’t present a political message. Or determine if it’s “fake” news in the first place. And mind you, I voted for Trump.

      Hacking? No one’s really defining it, and I don’t give a shit anyway:

      I read a huge proportion of pro-Hillary/anti-Trump messages everywhere, but I still voted for Trump.

      If you want to assume that everyone is an idiot and needs help weeding through the media they’re exposed to, forget it, and it doesn’t matter.

      Most voting populaces nowadays are no more intelligent than they were 200 years ago, and in many ways, much stupider.

      • The author of the article is a US college student (“Pedro studies Political Science and Philosophy at Penn State University.”) So we get: “This is not the time to be scared. It’s time to be terrified.”

  7. The problem is not that there are bad guys trying to “hack” Democracy, because there will always be bad actors, fake news, lies, etc.
    The real issue is how vulnerable are Democracies which rely on Universal Suffrage, always an election away from total collapse by means of manipulating the ignorant masses. Countless of examples around the world to care to list….
    This is why we need to evolve from Universal Suffrage to a smarter and more responsible form of government something like Voting Licenses because being older than 18 years old doesn’t automatically conjures political savviness.

    Once we accept the fact that the average voter have no time nor interest to have a clue about who or what they are voting for, then we can bring the changes that are urgently needed.

    This well intended but grossly naive universal suffrage system which is disconnected from reality is what destroyed Venezuela, Chavez was just the symptom (the virus).
    Venezuela descend to hell started right after Perez Jimenez and the reestablishment of Democracy based mostly on an idealistic system bringing less competent politicians elections after elections and more and more populism.
    However an ideal system (as oppose to idealistic) is a Suffrage system based on Voting Licensees, this will greatly diminish the influence of fake news, political parties, money in campaigns and the poison of populism.
    Chavez would have never had a chance in a system where voters have certain degree of knowledge on political, economic, social affairs.

    People can be divided in two categories, the majority who accept the world as it is and a minority who are determined to change it for the better.

    • Here we go again, the people are too stupid and prone to manipulation for their own good. So let’s take away the right of self-determination. How about the majority are promised a better life, if they allow the minority to take make all relevant decisions, and just plow ahead with their daily lives. Sounds exactly like the promise of Chavismo only of course you/others will do “it” better this time.

  8. This article, dated January 4th, 2018, includes the following line:

    “[…] Chile will […] be holding presidential elections very soon.”

    Chile already held its presidential election *runoff* a month ago.

    “Placing a friendly government in power in any of these countries would be a tremendous victory for Maduro’s regime.”

    Bachelet’s government, nominally socialist, has been openly hostile towards the chicanery of Maduro’s dicatorship. Foreign Relations minister Heraldo Muñoz has been postively described here on CC. Parliamentary allies of Bachelet such as Jorge Tarud (son of Allende’s campaign chief) have been among Maduro’s harshest critics in Chile. A sudden shift in policy would’ve been almost impossible if Bachelet’s appointed successor had won.

    Of all the countries in Latin America holding presidential elections, Chile is the only one on which Maduro could not, under any reasonable political circumstances, count with a potentially friendly regime. The only candidate in Chile’s presidential election babbling the PSUV’s propaganda was Alejandro Navarro, who finished dead last with 0.2% of the vote.

    Attempts at media manipulation by rogue actors had little to no effect into shifting the election towards a more Venezuela-friendly candidate. Telesewer’s reach is minimal to non-existent. Its only Chilean columnist is some whacko who’s also being paid by Iran’s own HispanTV. Hard left newspapers and websites have very limited readership.

    Mr. Garmendia needs to improve his research before posting.

  9. This is a very muddy article which confuses three separate issues:-

    (a) Mendacious propaganda.

    (b) Foreign governments attempting to intervene in another country’s leadership selection

    (c) Cyber-hacking

    There is a quote which can be traced back to 1854 (often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain):-
    “Falsehood travels seven leagues while truth is putting her boots on.” Lying propaganda has always been with us. The only difference is that, today, social media can spread fake news faster than ever before.

    Similarly, attempts by one government to influence or control other foreign governments has been going on for several thousand years both overtly via military threat as well as clandestinely.

    In the US at the moment there seems to be a lot of (a) to suggest (b) – specifically Russian government intervention – by means of (c), and this seems to be the main foundation on which the author seeks to build an edifice of fear. As far as I can tell, there is no credible evidence to support a Russian government cyber-hack. If the Russian government were to announce that the CIA had hacked their computers, and they knew this because the metadata of the released files was in English scipt and used the handle “J Edgar Hoover”, then I believe the western world would greet this with gales of laughter and derision. Yet the evidence for Russian government involvement in the US election was that the released files carried metadata which was SWAPPED OUT FOR cyrillic script and which used the handle “Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky” – the founder member of the Russian secret police. Someone is having a laugh.

    I am not suggesting that we should not be vigilant against (a), (b) and (c), but please let’s keep these things in some perspective. Venezuelan overt propaganda and clandestine funding of foreign political parties is of more concern to me than US concerns about Russian government cyber-spying. This latter shows many elements of paranoid over-reaction as evidenced by Pedro Garmendia’s article here. For many reasons, the ability of the Venezuelan regime to influence foreign elections is a LOT LESS today than ever before. They have neither the money nor the image to do as much damage as they have in the past.

    • The Russians hacked the Democratic party and released the information as part of a concerted effort to undermine Hilary Clinton’s campaign, an effort which also included the publication and dissemination of fake news (false information about Clinton and the Democrats purporting to be true and purporting to be news) through social media and other platforms. These are facts. This covers your points (A), (B) and (C). The only noteworthy people who dispute these facts are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

      There is also evidence that the Russians attempted, unsuccessfully, to hack the vote count.

      The ongoing question is not whether the Russians hacked the US elections. The question is whether the Trump campaign actively colluded with them in doing so, and to what degree. Certainly, the Trump campaign encouraged it and expressed a willingness to collude.

      What happened in the US presidential election was incubated, from what I can see, in places like Venezuela. RT, for example, has for a long time been a presence in Venezuelan news and politics. Only more recently does it pop up in North American social media and in places like YouTube.

      What you see- foreign interference in elections, the production and dissemination of propaganda- is not something new, but it has a level of sophistication and reach in the age of social media that is of a different order of impact and concern than in the past. Notably, the current governing party in the USA has done nothing to address it, and the American President, its chief beneficiary, has denied its existence as a “hoax”.

      The Venezuelan regime’s ability to fund foreign parties may have waned, but it is still involved in cyber-campaigns on behalf of its Russian backers. To dismiss this as insignificant is at best naive, and falls into the Putin line that this is just politics as it always has been and how it should be played.

  10. I kinda have to agree with some previous comments in this thread. Interesting article, but leaves a lot for the reader to infer, or even worse, to the reader’s imagination. Agree that the government of Nicolas Maduro would like more friendly “mandatarios” in other countries in Latin America, but just creating a bunch of social media bots won’t win or influence an election.

    What other proofs are there that the government is actively using technology means to influence election processes, or for that mater internal political events, in other countries? And again, am not just talking about social media trolls. The interview of Juan Diego Zelaya serves as some proof, but what else? To the best of my knowledge, this has not been proven, and I doubt any in-depth investigation will take place. Another note about this: Zelaya is a member of the Partido Nacional (PN) in Honduras, and at the time of the interview the PN was in full campaign mode to ensure the reelection of Juan Orlando Hernandez, the incumbent. You have to take his worst with a grain of salt.

    I would like to see more articles about this tho, specially on the role the Venezuelan government is trying to play within other governments in the region. I just think it needs more data that backs it up.

  11. These are the tactics to spread the news at voting time I have to listen to it at many places. when it is time for voting you will find another party is trying to blame or trying to find that news by which they can take them down. Bitdefender customer service


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