The acceleration of the conflict generated from Washington over Venezuela led to an escalation not only of aggressions against local institutions and (para)military threats, but also of social tension with mobilizations in the streets, foci of irregular violence and threats of foreign military intervention, together with the hyperinflationary and commercial situation within the country.
The sanctions meant by the embargo added a burden that will weigh on the created environment, one full of expectations on the one hand, while Chavismo remains cautious but mobilized in its different social and political components. The scenario is filtered in a sense of active peril, at a point where we have passed from the assassination attempt against President Nicolas Maduro in August 2018, to the present with a “humanitarian aid” that has generated more suspicions than affirmative salutations.
As soon as 2019 began, the rise of US movements to create a “parallel government” had a frenetic pace, especially between January 23 and the beginning of February. During those days, information, data and stories were reproduced and expanded that bordered on truthfulness and information fraud.
Beneath this line of media opacity, with reach especially in social networks, the psychological operations (known in English as psyops) have spread and disseminated over all layers of audience and consumers of information in Venezuela. They have been used to neurotize and caotize the social psyche, especially in the field of social networks, where opinions (under a defined treatment) are usually considered facts.
This time, there are diverse origins of psyops; in this article we will analyze those operations directly linked to U.S. government officials, as well as news agencies with experience in field coverage of conflicts of this type, which go beyond the local to become a scenario of global conflict. That size is the importance of what happens with Venezuela in the future.
United States at the front
The role of the CIA and the White House in spreading psyops around the world has been well documented through the journalistic work of Robert Parry (QEPD), by co-opting media conglomerates, politicians repeating over and over again key messages in favour of specific interests and opinion makers.
The aim was to win the psychic battlefield not only in times of war (support for the Nicaraguan Contra and the Central American massacres) but above all in times of peace (thinking of the post-Vietnam syndrome and the future dismantling of the Soviet Union), since the behavioural subjugation was the strategy of the neoliberal program represented in the Reagan Administration. For the first time, an Orwellian Ministry of Truth was secretly institutionalized in Washington’s offices, with the National Security Council commanding operations in substance and form.
In this way the CIA also came to express its ideas in psychological operations, with the necessary adaptation to the irregular war, under the format of manual in the aggression against Sandinista Nicaragua. It expresses the long term objectives, since not only did it consist of emphasizing the promotion of a positive perception of the Contra in their war of extermination, it was also about undermining the perception of reality, and with it create in the site ” warfare of propaganda soldiers ” of the American cause.
The attempt to collude an identification between the victims and the aggressors: that was the domain where psyops moved against the Nicaraguan people, and that is also where psychological operations operate in Venezuela, with the addition today that there are techniques through Big Data to expand such operations, with the use of personal data as weapons against the population, which gives a corporate content to the information siege (remember Cambrigde Analytica).
A categorical way of propagating a psyop was in charge of John Bolton, Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, who showed his notebook with an evident annotation: “5,000 troops to Colombia”.
This “information” travelled the planet, throwing more suspicions than questions, since the dangerous U.S. official would have “inadvertently” inferred that an insertion starring the Hollywood Marines could take place in Venezuelan territory. However, both U.S. Army officials and Colombian authorities declared that they did not have this information among their immediate readiness.
It should be noted that, in effect, the Pentagon is deploying service plans on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, although the objective has not been publicly stated.
Bolton’s gesture suggested several ends: to intimidate the FANB and to adjust the social climate with the expectations of a military intervention in favour or against; this last one doesn’t matter to the foreign establishment because it raises the psychic chaos of the collective. This operation takes place at a time when the “Guaidó Team” is trying to capture military defections, with the objective of mercenarizing their interests to support the longed-for coup d’état headed by Voluntad Popular (VP).
At the same time that the National Assembly in contempt outlines a scheme for receiving the much-vaunted “humanitarian aid”, which basically consists of an exclusion zone by land or air under the military dominion of the Pentagon, expectations rise under the mediated wink of Bolton and the suggestion of the “military option” as a definitive form of harsh aggression against Venezuela by (again) Trump himself.
Swarm, war and social nerves
Most of the grandiosity surrounding the information that crosses the local military and police world forms precisely a kind of perceptive swarm with two purposes: to criminalize state security forces while instigating treason in the form of a coup d’état. It is a contradiction that feeds precisely on its multiple discourse, reaching subconscious strata in all societal layers that can be forged and manipulated.
WhatsApp’s audios are the ideal devices for spreading rumors, disposing listeners in an animosity of shock, with special emphasis on those whose desires are intimately linked to the information (generally false) emitted.
One of the most representative examples is embodied in the following audio, shared by an invaluable number of users, who were subjected to a neurotization filtered by the current tension of the Venezuelan transnational conflict. It should be remembered that as of today, February 5, the above-mentioned “humanitarian aid”, sold as a final product of Day D, has not yet been disposed of.
On the other hand, photos and videos have been displayed on social networks and media, passing them off as verified information, without any kind of contrast.
1. A wave of rumors about the entry of humanitarian aid into Venezuela in the most dramatic way has been unleashed by social networks, these photos were published as if they were from the airport of Cúcuta, the truth corresponds to #Siria pic.twitter.com/mvMSLrUsNa.
– Madelein Garcia (@madeleintlSUR) February 4, 2019
Voice messages also flooded the washap groups, that if a joint force came, that they were at the airport from #Cúcuta military deserters # Venezuelans to the front, that there was movement etc etc etc etc. So was the airport of #Cúcuta @manueljteleSUR pic.twitter.com/BrFiodXJNu
– Madelein Garcia (@madeleintlSUR) February 4, 2019
One way to qualify these operations is to confirm the information and the inputs used that make them up. In the latter cases in which a fictitious “end of chavismo” was announced through the deployment of U.S. “humanitarian aid,” it must be taken into account that there has not been a facility with a military capability that could carry out a task of this type (for now) on the part of the Pentagon and Colombia’s joint forces. This plus the suggestion of the International Committee of the Venezuelan Red Cross and Caritas (Vatican) that such an operation cannot be carried out without the permission of the FANB and President Maduro.
Until now, many opposition journalists and media outlets such as Univision have had to deny themselves, as well as the case of children “recruited” by the FANB under the assumption of non-existent mass defections in favor of Guaidó.
It is striking how false information of this kind can be spread in a context of political tension and war. In this sense, Erin Gallagher’s recommended investigation into the use of bots, fake accounts and infowar of the Venezuelan opposition on Twitter, sheds light on the coordination of an army of “keyboard warriors,” personalized and automated, ready to spread the swarm of psychological operations and fake news that interests the Venezuelan opposition and its creditors in the North.
Gallagher concludes, after his illustrative exposition, that “I can confidently call this a pattern of inauthentic and coordinated behavior on Twitter” about a sample that makes of accounts that arrived in 2017, by enunciating the same and exact discourse of criminalization of the Venezuelan State, through labels created in that framework by a society of hackers whose origin refers to Miami.
And he adds: “What I can say with certainty is that the social network of the Venezuelan opposition engages in an inauthentic and coordinated activity on Twitter”, necessary for the operational deployment of false information and non-contracted data.
The FAES (Special Action Forces) case is another type of case in which this expression of an artificial swarm is reflected, in a context of irregular violence that is sharpened with focuses that surpass the typical “civic” struggles in soft coup scenarios. In fact, research on clashes between the FAES and armed groups in the Caracas neighborhoods shows that there is a belligerent coordination with political implications in the different criminal gangs of the Guarataro, Petare and El Valle.
In this case, news agencies such as Reuters in conjunction with NGOs linked to Washington’s private and public budget corridors (Provea, Foro Penal) generalize and cease to qualify figures on murders in violent clashes between police and criminal gangs.
The signposting of “crimes” continues to be abused under the human rights record that Luis Almagro has given it so much use from the OAS. In spite of the fact that there is no rigor in the affirmations against the FAES, the half-empty glass is taken as full by the already neurotized audience under the swarm of psyops that put their finger on that security body, together with others, as scapegoats in the future.
Any operation of this kind draws attention to the need to socially expunge any vestige of what is being criminalized. Chavismo already knows the vital risks of these operations under the cloak of the hate crimes that have occurred since the failed coup de color in 2017.
At the close of this note, it can be said that these operations had a short-term effect on the Venezuelan collective imagination, and even regional and global. The longed-for military invasion led by the coup and war troika (Pence-Bolton-Rubio) has not taken place, and Trump seems to be playing the bad good cop himself on Twitter as he has done previously with Asian leaders Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un.
This is not to say that threats are not feasible, on the contrary: we should not underestimate them. But we must remain calm when it comes to receiving and disseminating information on our networks, comparing data, suspecting that it is too loud. Information is also a weapon; it serves to attack and defend oneself. Let us always remember Sun Tzu: “All the art of war is based on deceit”.
Translation by Internationalist 360°