Just like any major media outlet, RT en Español has been closely monitoring events in Venezuela following the appointment of Juan Guaidó as interim president by the National Assembly. While a number of outlets sympathetic toward the Maduro regime use questionable terms such as “self-proclaimed president” or attribute the opposition’s momentum exclusively to U.S. backed support, RT en Español goes further, blatantly siding with the Maduro regime’s discourse.
When referring to Guaidó or the National Assembly, RT’s coverage refers to the interim president’s “self-proclamation” and says the National Assembly is acting in contempt. In a video posted by Inna Afinogenova, RT mocks the opposition’s efforts. Afinogenova even appoints herself “Empress of Russia.” She emphasizes in the video that her intention is not to judge Maduro’s government (god forbid), but to identify and denounce a coup d’etat, especially when it happens in an “improvised” fashion.
It’s not only RT en Español’s coverage on the recent events in Venezuela that wildly distorts the geopolitical events of the Americas. Late last year, RT en Español claimed that the United States Naval Ship Comfort, a hospital ship that for 11 weeks travelled through Central and South America to help alleviate pressure on the medical systems of host nations, was seen as an act of aggression and military interference. While the USNS Comfort is a navy ship, it was operating in a strictly humanitarian sense. The ship has had six similar missions through Latin America in the last decade, all of which were met with little resistance from the region.
The state-owned Russian media outlet has also given a platform to authoritarian leaders, like President Daniel Ortega, to plead their case and make themselves out to be victims of traditional western sources of information.
Through its misinformation agenda, RT looks to diminish public perception of western-based media as well as call into question the role of the U.S. in the region. As Brian Fonseca writes, “Russian-controlled media does this by exploiting long held suspicions about U.S. policy towards the region and exaggerating, distorting, or fabricating falsehoods regarding U.S. and western activities in the region.”
As a state-owned media outlet, RT does not necessarily look to bolster Russia’s image in the region, but weaken confidence in traditional media sources, democratic institutions, and political parties in order to challenge the value of a democratic
international system. With 2.97 million followers on Twitter, 7,047,592 likes on Facebook and RT TV available in most basic cable packages throughout Latin America, Russian state media’s new found influence has helped the Kremlin hide the truth or spread misinformation in order to exploit pre-existing divisions and prejudices to advance a political and geo-strategic agenda that further fragments an already divided hemisphere.