Russia uses Latin America to spread disinformation, State Department warns

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin's (pictured in August) Kremlin is coordinating a well-funded disinformation campaign targeting Latin America nations. File Photo by Kremlin

Nov. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department on Tuesday warned that the Russian government is coordinating a well-funded disinformation campaign targeting Latin America.

The State Department says its Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community shows that "Russia's influence actors have adapted their efforts to increasingly hide their hand, laundering their preferred messaging through a vast ecosystem of Russian proxy websites."

The State Department identified the Social Design Agency firm and its director, Ilya Gambashidze, as well as the company Structura and its CEO Nikolay Tupkin, as key players in the Kremlin-backed disinformation campaign.

"The Social Design Agency (SDA), the Institute for Internet Development, and Structura coordinated on the development of an information manipulation campaign targeting Latin America that aims to promote Russia's strategic interests in the region at the expense of other countries by overtly and covertly coopting local media and influencers to spread disinformation and propaganda," the State Department said in a press release Tuesday.

The goal of the disinformation campaign is to make Russian propaganda seem authentically local.

"The Kremlin's ultimate goal appears to be to launder and its propaganda and disinformation through local media in a way that feels organic to Latin American audiences to undermine support for Ukraine and propagate anti-U.S. and anti-NATO sentiment," the State Department said.

The State Department alleges that "a cultivated group of editorial staff," who would be organized in a Latin American country, most likely Chile, with several local individuals and representatives."

A team in Russia, often working in coordination with Spanish speakers, would then send content to the staff in Latin America. The Spanish-language outlets El Ciudadano and Pressenza were identified by the State Department as participants in the scheme.

The State Department also alleges that Russian embassies throughout Latin America have coordinated their efforts to disseminate pro-Kremlin propaganda.