US general laments power of Russian media in Latin America
The US government is not doing enough to counter the messaging of Russia and Venezuela in Latin America, a senior Pentagon official has claimed. Washington should “do better” in the “informational domain,” four-star general Laura Richardson believes.
The commander of United States Southern Command complained about the popularity of media outlets critical of US foreign policy during an event hosted by the neocon think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) last week.
“I’d say we are in a conflict in the information domain. In Latin America, we have over 31 million followers with Sputnik Mundo, Russia Today Espanol and teleSUR,” she said.
She was referring to two Russian Spanish-language news outlets, the latter of which is properly called ‘RT en Espanol’, and a Venezuela-based regional broadcaster.
“They don’t run justification or verification journalism. They spread disinformation that undermines democracies across the hemisphere, and we’ve got to do better than that,” Richardson claimed.
We’ve got to get something in the region that is very specific, promulgating democracies and how democracies deliver for people.
RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan responded to the remarks by saying that undermining the kind of “democracies” that Washington wants to have all over Latin America is “our job.”
In March, Richardson told the US House Armed Forces Committee that her department was fighting “false narratives about its invasion of Ukraine” spread by RT en Espanol and Sputnik Mundo, calling it a national security goal for the Pentagon.
US media have a long-established presence in Latin America, a region that Washington considers its “backyard” and has meddled in for decades. The list includes both corporate-owned networks such as CNN en Espanol, and outlets directly dependent on the US government like Voz de America (Voice of America).
In May, an expert who was called to testify before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged the legislators to allocate more money to counter Russian media on the continent.
“On TikTok, RT en Español is among the most popular Spanish-language media outlets. Its 29.6 million likes make it more popular than Telemundo, Univision, BBC Mundo, and El Pais,” Jessica Brandt of the Brookings Institution think tank warned at the time. “Likewise, on Facebook, RT en Español currently has more followers than any other Spanish-language international broadcaster.”
She claimed the popularity of alternative news sources in Latin America reflected a “resource prioritization problem” in Washington, citing the relatively larger budgets that Voice of America gets for divisions in other places.