The Russian government is funding a disinformation campaign through media outlets across Latin America to undermine support for Ukraine and spread anti-US and anti-NATO sentiment among Latin American audiences, the US State Department said.
The Kremlin has been spreading disinformation through its extensive media contacts in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, among other Latin American countries, to manipulate information, the report says.
Russia spreads disinformation through its media contacts – the US
“The Kremlin’s ultimate goal appears to be to launder its propaganda and disinformation through local media in a way that feels organic to Latin American audiences to undermine support for Ukraine and propagate anti-US and anti-NATO sentiment,” the statement said.
American experts have determined that Russia uses local media and influencers to spread disinformation and propaganda. These are “influence for hire” firms with deep technical capabilities, experience using the open information environment, and a history of spreading disinformation and propaganda to achieve Russian goals.
According to them, Moscow is planting original stories, amplifying controversial discourse, and spreading false content beneficial for Russian influence.
Actors of Russian propaganda in Latin America
- Ilya Gambashidze, director of a Russian public relations firm known as the Social Design Agency (SDA), leads a group of attackers comprised of members of SDA and Structura to conduct a campaign of information manipulation against Latin American countries;
- SDA project director Andrey Perla;
- Structura CEO Nikolay Tupikin;
- Pro-Kremlin journalist Oleg Yasinsky.
How Russian propaganda works in Latin America
A team of editorial staff has been organized in a Latin American country, likely Chile, consisting of several local journalists and opinion leaders from different countries in the region.
The team in Russia would then create the content and send the material to the editorial office in Latin America for vetting, editing, and publication in local media. The pro-Kremlin content created in Russia will be “localized” by Latin American editors and published in Latin American media to appear organic.
The next step is translation. The role of Moscow-based linguistic editors who speak Spanish is an integral part of the campaign. The editors often use pseudonyms to hide their true identity and ensure that the information is adapted in a way that appears genuine to the local audience in Latin America.
“Yasinsky maintains and utilizes an extensive network of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking journalists and media outlets to spread pro-Russian messages without jeopardizing his efforts to more naturally assimilate Latin American media content to the benefit of SDA and Structura,” the USUS State Department emphasizes.
Spreading pro-Kremlin narratives in Latin America
The topics and success metrics for the campaigns were developed under the guidance of the Russian government, with Gambashidze, Perla, and Tupikin taking the lead in developing them, the report said.
Controlling the pro-Kremlin narrative is an essential aspect of building a Latin American influence campaign, and Tupikin monitors the Kremlin’s priority topics.
The main narratives seek to convince Latin Americans that Russia’s war against Ukraine is just and that they can unite with Russia to defeat “neo-colonialism”. At the same time, a true neocolonialism is Russia’s attempts to conquer Ukraine.
These themes are consistent with Russia’s broader narrative that it is fighting against neo-colonization when, in fact, it has engaged in neocolonialism and neo-imperialism in its war against Ukraine and resource extraction in Africa.
There is a well-established connection between Russian embassies in Latin America and state-funded media to increase pro-Kremlin messages, spread anti-American narratives, and develop partnerships between Russian state media and local media.