On the Influence of Russia in the Protests

Foreign intervention does not explain or lessen the indignation that people have been expressing in the streets; it is another type of violence that cannot go unnoticed.

The shadow of Russia is spreading over Latin America. That is the conclusion recently reached by the U.S. State Department. The New York Times reported that government officials say they have observed the activation of Russian-related Twitter accounts accompanying protests in different countries of the region. If there were evidence, it would warrant a diplomatic protest. However, it is clear that the demonstrations cannot be exclusively blamed on foreign intervention as several governments, including the Colombian government, have tried to do in the past.

“In Chile,” says The New York Times, “about 10% of all tweets supporting protests in late October originated with Twitter accounts that had a high certainly of being linked to Russia.” The same could be observed in Bolivia, Peru and, yes, Colombia.

At the end of last year, in the middle of the national strike, Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez said that “we know there is an international project, we know that there is an international support network to foment this social unrest. We are certain that there are platforms that, from Venezuela, from Russia, have been sending many of these messages on social networks.” She was right.

However, everything must be kept in proportion. In the article, The New York Times says that “State Department officials said the vast majority of protest-related posts on Twitter and other social media appeared to be legitimate.” The fact that foreign intervention does not explain or lessen the outrage that people have been expressing in the streets has been reported here and in other countries.

With the protests that took place in Colombia yesterday, a year began that promises to be marked by tensions between protesters and authorities. There are complaints on the table from those who are not justly represented by the institutions and their usual responses. One can sense the indignation in the streets. For that reason, we need to be cautious about stigmatizing protesters.

In our country, false news about the marches has mounted. Protesters were said to be receiving astronomically high payments when foreign intervention was mentioned. Now that we know that is partially true, it is also clear that it is only one of the stories that should help us understand what is happening.

Wouldn’t it be worth it to send a note of diplomatic protest to the Russian government? The intervention of another government in the internal affairs of our country, with the objective of taking advantage of disaffection, is another type of violence that cannot go unnoticed.

All attempts at interference succeed when there are genuine reasons for discontent in the population. Without the frustration of Colombians, Russian messages − even fake news − would have no resonance. If we do not fall into the trap of stigmatizing the protesters, and if the national dialogue of the government manages to strengthen institutions, there will be no way to destabilize our democracy.

About this publication

About Patricia Simoni 69 Articles
I first edited and translated for Watching America from 2009 through 2011, recently returning and rediscovering the pleasure of working with dedicated translators and editors. Latin America is of special interest to me. In the mid-60’s, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile, and later lived for three years in Mexico, in the states of Oaxaca and Michoacán and in Mexico City. During those years, my work included interviewing in anthropology research, teaching at a bilingual school in the federal district, and conducting workshops in home nursing care for disadvantaged inner city women. I earned a BS degree from Wagner College, masters and doctoral degrees from WVU, and was a faculty member of the WVU School of Nursing for 27 years. In that position, I coordinated a two-year federal grant (FIPSE) at WVU for an exchange of nursing students with the University of Guanajuato, Mexico. Presently a retiree, I live in Morgantown, West Virginia, where I enjoy traditional Appalachian fiddling with friends. Working toward the mission of WA, to help those in the U.S. see ourselves as others see us, gives me a sense of purpose.

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