“In the world of disinformation there are efforts to propagate and spread stories that are not of Colombian origin, and this is especially true in the context of the elections that are coming up, and our desire is to have a free and fair election, a Colombian election for Colombians,” said U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland during a February 8 meeting with Colombian President Iván Duque, at the presidential palace in Bogotá.
In an interview with Bogotá-based radio station Blu Radio, Nuland added: “All of these actors have experience interfering in the politics of other countries […]. We’ve learned quite a bit about this both on the cybersecurity and on the disinformation side, and we’re trying to share that knowledge with Colombia, but also to make sure that they can’t succeed here and that they can’t succeed in other parts of the hemisphere, where they may be trying to influence politics and undermine democracy and undermine the sovereignty of Colombians.”
Venezuela and Colombia
Nuland also said that fake news, disinformation, and cyberattacks that do not originate in Colombian territory, are nothing more than “threats.” The White House representative did not mention Russia directly, but her words follow recent statements by members of the Colombian government regarding Moscow. For example, according to the Colombian magazine Semana, in a recent statement, Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano accused Russia of “foreign interference” in the conflicts taking place on the Colombia-Venezuela border.
Disinformation spread online may be just one of the concerns for the upcoming elections in Colombia. Since 2021, RT — a Russian state-controlled and funded television network — and other Kremlin-sponsored media outlets have become familiar sources of information in the Spanish-speaking world of the Americas.
Soviet propaganda apparatus
In doing so, Russia managed to reestablish the possibility of exposure to an alternative vision than that promoted by the United States and the democratic governments of the region for the first time since the dissolution of the Soviet propaganda apparatus. One of the factors behind RT’s success in Latin America is that the public misunderstands the nature of Moscow’s interests in the region’s media.
Many Latin Americans perceive the growing influence of Russian media as something “normal” that falls within freedom of expression and diversity of opinions. However, experts say that this is nothing more than a foreign policy strategy from the Vladimir Putin government designed to achieve specific objectives.
We will soon see if Russia achieved its goals. Colombia will hold legislative elections on March 13 and presidential elections on May 29. If no candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two candidates will face again in a June 19 runoff.