Kremlin-controlled media outlets such as RT and Sputnik have amassed a large number of Spanish-speaking followers on social media platforms and spread disinformation to millions, news site Insider reported April 7, 2022.
RT is now the third most shared site on Twitter with Spanish-language information about the Ukraine invasion, AP reported April 2.
Pro-Kremlin media publish disinformation and propaganda, including false-flag narratives and claims to justify the invasion, said Esteban Ponce de León, research associate in Latin America at the U.S. think tank Atlantic Council.
“Once there is a new conspiracy theory, these media outlets basically amplify the same theory in Spanish,” Ponce de Leon told Insider. “The audience for these channels in Latin America is actually huge.”
According to the analyst, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, RT has spent weeks presenting Spanish-speaking audiences with unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the invasion of Ukraine.
Martin Pallares, founder of the independent digital media 4Pelagatos, from Ecuador, told Spanish newspaper El Mundo that “Russian media for a large part of the region’s population […], appear as a serious international media brand, which could be perfectly confused with the BBC in London. Not everyone is clear about the direct relationship they have with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin as a propaganda tool.”
Latin America has become a strategic target for Putin to diversify Russia’s political alliances in the region to counter U.S. presence and influence in Latin America. RT’s Spanish-language audience in the Americas is mainly located in Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, and Colombia, reported U.S.-based digital publishing platform Medium.
Russian propaganda can easily reach other countries from Latin America — including the United States — impacting large Spanish-speaking communities. It is another possible gateway for Moscow, and a reminder of its efforts, AP reported.
The Russian psychological warfare not only seeks to impose its narrative, but to create chaos and make audiences doubt everything they see, Jacobo Licona, disinformation research leader at Equis Labs, a U.S.-based research and polling firm on the Latino community, told NBC News. Latinos are more susceptible to this content because of the amount of time they spend on social networks, and because of how those platforms moderate Spanish-language content, he said.
One thing that helps boost and legitimize Russian media in Spanish is that it is being retweeted by verified Russian embassy accounts in several Latin American countries, including Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, Ponce de León said.
As Russian propaganda attempts to frame Russia as the victim of its own aggression against Ukraine, the Kremlin is trying to fill the news space by flooding it with contradictory explanations of the facts, EUvsDisinfo, a European platform that promotes public awareness and highlights the Kremlin’s disinformation operations, said April 7. The objective is not only to deflect blame for Russian attacks on peaceful civilians, but to preemptively shape narratives to counter and discredit any evidence or investigation of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, it warned.