The U.S. government has unveiled a concerning revelation of an ongoing Russia-funded disinformation campaign sweeping across Latin America, with the dual objective of undermining support for Ukraine and discrediting the United States and NATO. This covert operation has been attributed by the U.S. State Department to three local companies known as “influence-for-hire” firms: the Social Design Agency (SDA), the Institute for Internet Development, and Structura.
Furthermore, these companies are identified as having deep technical capabilities, allowing them to effectively spread Russian propaganda in the region. At the same time, in July, the European Union imposed sanctions on SDA and Structura for their role in promoting propaganda supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine, labeling these actions as part of a broader hybrid campaign by Russia against the European Union and its member states.
Russia’s approach to conducting these influence operations in Latin America is characterized by discretion, with the Kremlin employing a vast ecosystem of proxy websites, individuals, and organizations that appear to be independent news sources. Their propaganda efforts involve disseminating false content, amplifying information favorable to Russian influence, and propagating conspiracy theories.
Additionally, the openness of Latin America’s media environment serves as an advantage, allowing pro-Kremlin actors to seamlessly integrate their propaganda and make it more appealing to the local audience. This campaign often involves hiring local editorial staff, including journalists and opinion leaders, who are unwittingly employed to “localize” content created in Russia by reviewing, editing, and publishing it in local media.
The central message the Kremlin seeks to convey to Latin American readers is that Russia’s war against Ukraine is just and that they can join forces with Russia to combat neocolonialism. Russia’s influence campaigns in Latin America and Africa have a history of specifically targeting far-right and hard-left groups with the aim of furthering the Kremlin’s agenda and promoting anti-democratic and authoritarian ideologies on a global scale. This revelation underscores the need for vigilance and awareness to counteract these subversive activities that threaten to undermine democracy and sow disinformation in these regions.