Fake news stories are the order of the day, with social media and instant messaging apps making it even easier to spread such messages.
In Venezuela, the political struggle between the government and the opposition has led to rumours and false information being quickly multiplied, especially when there are events on a national scale.
Satanic pacts, cult rituals with the bones of [Venezuelan Liberator] Simon Bolívar and child abductions by the police special forces are some of the most viral "fakes" in Venezuela.
7) Satanic pacts and cults
“The Exhumation of Bolivar: A Curse Brought Forward? The deaths related to the exhumation of Bolivar in 2011 include President Hugo Chavez, [Chavista] ex-Governor of Guárico State William Lara, Chavista Deputy Luis Tascon, retired General Alberto Muller Rojas, National Comptroller Clodosbaldo Russian and the regime’s deputy, Robert Serra,” reads the story from the Diario de Las Americas newspaper. Below, Lifestyle runs a title of “Does the curse of Simon Bolivar exist” and Entorno Inteligente claims, “Venezuela: The curse of Bolivar: The tragic death of the historian was caused by the profanation on the tomb of the Liberator.” (compilation by Supuesto Negado)
In July 2010, an inter-institutional commission exhumed the remains of the Liberator, Simon Bolívar, to determine the true causes of his death through advanced forensic studies. The opportunity was seized by national and international experts to [digitally] reconstruct the face of the national hero based on the shape of his bones.
This gave rise to a series of rumours and information that spoke of the use of the remains of the “Father of the Nation” for satanic and cult rituals, supposedly [for the government] to keep itself in power. There were also rumours about "the curse of Bolivar," and the deaths of several people who participated in the proceedings were connected to the exhumation.
6) Money with satanic symbols on it
“Venezuelans have been carrying bills with skulls on for seven years,” reads the headline from Diario Contraste, while El Informador writes “A quick study of the occult meaning of the Strong Bolivar.” Caraota Digital leads with “The ‘mysterious’ images which appear on the 100 Bolivar bill” following with “Subliminal and pagan images are discovered on Venezuela’s banknotes.” (compilation by Supuesto Negado)
Since the reconversion of Venezuela’s bolivar currency in 2007, rumours of supposed satanic symbols hidden in the new banknotes, such as pentagrams or elements used in cult rituals, spread like wildfire. Thus, many believed that by holding these banknotes they were infected with a kind of spell.
5) The Petro cryptocurrency is Haitian voodoo
The Whatsapp message (left) reads, “Origin of the virtual cryptocurrency Petro announced by NM (Nicolas Maduro) - It has its origins in the occult with terrible consequences for the country. It belongs to the pacts which are made with the Loa spirits [as supposed intermediaries between man and the regent of the supernatural world, Bondye] of the Haitian Voodoo, which is a cult practiced by the most important black magic magicians of the Order of the Black Snake, which they worship. In the Voodoo religion there are two types in the Loa family: (1) the Rada from the white magic branch and (2) the Petros which is the black magic branch.” Among the bullet points on the right are “Wizardry in Venezuela” and “The Bolivarian government and its hatred for Israel.” (compilation by Supuesto Negado)
To continue the wave of occult rumours, the fake news was updated in 2018 when the Petro cryptocurency was released. Whatsapp chains began to emerge and some Twitter users like Ibéyise Pacheco swore that the cryptocurrency was directly related to Haitian religious voodoo chiefs.
“Haitian Voodoo had an influence in choosing the Petro as the name of the supposed cryptocurrency. The chiefs of this religion have more power in Miraflores [presidential palace] than any economics expert,” tweets Ibeyise Pacheco. “The Petro is nothing more than a sacrifice of all of Venezuelans so that this regime can stay in power. A dark satanic pact,” writes IKE. (@ibepachecho and @Ikextrem / Twitter)
4) The kidnapping of Juan Guaido
On 13 January 2019, the deputy was on his way to give a rally in La Guaira [in Vargas State]. Officials from the Bolivarian Intelligence Services (SEBIN) detained him and the headlines said it was a kidnapping. Guaido had only been in the presidency of the National Assembly (AN) for eight days and was still largely unknown. [Guaido was detained for a matter of hours before being released and successfully attended his rally in La Guaira.]
3) Russian military leaves Venezuela
This Europa Press headline reads “Russia refutes having withdrawn its military personnel from Venezuela as Trump assured.” (Europa Press)
In June, US President Donald Trump assured that Russia had confirmed the withdrawal of its military personnel from Venezuela. Moscow denied this fake story.
"There was no official message from Russia about it, nor could there have been," said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian presidency, at the time.
On this subject, the false narrative concerning the functions of these Russian military personnel was also woven. The Kremlin responded that its personnel did not come to Venezuela with guerrilla-style plans, but were rather experts in aircraft maintenance and military equipment sold to the country.
2) Maduro recruits children
El Tiempo writes, “Denouncements have been made of the recruitment of young people and children to be used as human shields or for uncertain goals.” (El Tiempo)
According to the [opposition] Deputy Américo de Grazia (currently holed up in the Italian embassy [fleeing charges of treason]), and journalist Luz Mely Reyes, [President Nicolas] Maduro recruited children through the Special Operations Forces of the Bolivarian National Police (FAES) and the Bolivarian Intelligence Service to use as "human shields."
Ante las graves denuncias sobre presuntas detenciones, reclutamiento o secuestro masivo por parte de la dictadura a niños y adolescente, nuestro equipo, junto a diversas ONG está en proceso de verificación de las mismas.
— Delsa Solorzano (@delsasolorzano) January 31, 2019
“Given these serious denunciations of alleged arrests, recruitment or mass abduction of children and adolescents by the dictatorship, our team, together with various NGOs, is currently in the process of verifying them,” writes opposition Deputy Delsa Solorzano.
From Miami, [Venezuelan journalist] Patricia Poleo stated that this was a false news story, as there was no report of child abduction by any parent or guardian.
1) Maduro is Colombian
“According to the registry, Maduro is not Colombian,” reads this debunking headline. (Supuesto Negado)
This is, perhaps, one of the most famous fake news stories. The denouncement of the alleged Colombian nationality of the leader was first made in 2013 by the former ambassador of Panama to the Organization of American States (OAS), Guillermo Cochez, who even went on to unveil the alleged birth certificate.
The intention here was to disqualify Maduro from becoming president because he was allegedly foreign, something Venezuelan law expressly prohibits.
In the face of the international controversy which was unleashed, the National Registry of Colombia investigated the document and concluded that it was a fake. At the time, the body’s national director of identification, Carlos Alberto Arias, stated in reference to the alleged birth certificate: “It's a document that doesn't contain the special features of our records, like having a serial number.”
However, other opposition spokespeople, such as [opposition ex-Ambassador and ex-Deputy] Walter Marquez and [right-wing politician] Pablo Medina, continued to swear that Nicolas Maduro is not Venezuelan.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.
Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.