US, OAS, Colombia try to steal Ecuador’s election from popular socialist candidate, while spreading fake news
The US State Department is pushing a politicized vote recount, overseen by the coup-sponsoring OAS, after socialist Andrés Arauz won Ecuador’s election in a landslide. Meanwhile Colombia’s ex-president warns his country’s “radical right” is “interfering” with “slander” and a “dirty game.”
by Ben Norton
Part 2 - Colombia spreads fake news to try to prosecute Ecuador’s leading presidential candidate
Just five days after the February 7 election, amid the recount chaos, Colombia intervened directly in Ecuadorian politics. The right-wing government of President Iván Duque, who has been credibly linked to drug cartels and death squads, sent its chief prosecutor to Ecuador on an official state plane in a desperate attempt to disqualify socialist Andrés Arauz.
The head of Colombia’s justice department, Francisco Barbosa, a close ally and personal friend of Duque, has amplified fake news stories published by conservative media outlets in his country, maliciously claiming that a leader of the socialist guerrilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN) funded Arauz’s campaign to the tune of $80,000.
The ELN commander they accused of giving this money to Arauz, code-named Uriel, was in fact killed in October 2020, nearly two months before Arauz was officially registered a candidate in December. But this inconvenient fact did not stop the conspiracy theory from spreading.
Barbosa met with the attorney general of Ecuador, Diana Salazar Méndez, on February 12. Ecuador’s prosecutor’s office said the Colombian prosecutor provided evidence gathered from Uriel’s devices “in the framework of penal cooperation between the two countries.”
To supplement the dubious accusations of links between the ELN and Arauz, right-wing media outlets in Latin America have also circulated a video that purports to show Colombian guerrillas endorsing the Ecuadorian leftist.
But the viral video was very clearly fabricated, as numerous experts have pointed out. Even the The Guardian, which collaborates with the UK’s spy agencies, acknowledged that the footage could not have been filmed in Colombia, because it featured a rare bird that is native to western Ecuador.
The fraudulent ELN video also contained spelling errors and weapons that the guerrilla group does not use. Linguistic specialists noted that the accents of the men in the video were not genuine, but rather those of foreigners pretending to be Colombian.
The exposé led the former leader of Colombia to warn that his country’s sitting government was engaged in a plot with the OAS to steal Arauz’s electoral victory.
Ex-President Ernesto Samper published a statement on February 13 condemning the Duque administration for falsely linking Ecuador’s leading presidential candidate to the ELN guerrillas.
“I can confirm that these claims are slander and form part of a dirty game that radical right-wing sectors from both countries are organizing, from inside Colombia, to interfere in the second round of the Ecuadorian presidential elections,” Samper wrote.
The former Colombian head of state pointed out numerous falsehoods in the Duque government’s accusations. He added, “The people of Ecuador should be warned that the enemies of progressivism in our countries are determined to stop by any means the transformations that Latin America needs.”
Although the outlandish ELN accusations were quickly disproven, Ecuadorian right-wing activists have persisted in spreading the fake news.
Throughout Ecuador, opponents of the leftist Correista movement disseminated viral materials on WhatsApp and social media platforms falsely claiming that Arauz had been disqualified from participating in the second round.
It was just the latest example of information warfare targeting the working-class Ecuadorians who make up the base of the Citizens’ Revolution launched by the country’s socialist former President Rafael Correa.
Prominent Colombian Senator Iván Cepeda condemned the trip by his country’s chief prosecutor to Ecuador, writing, “With his trip to Ecuador, the role that the prosecutor Francisco Barbosa is fulfilling is not one of the investigator who acts with rigor and impartiality in a penal action. Rather it is of the official who carries out a blunt maneuver of political intervention in a foreign electoral process.”
Yet the corruption goes deeper. Barbosa is not just a high-level Colombian official; he is one of President Iván Duque’s closest allies. In fact, Barbosa has boasted that Duque has been his “great friend for 25 years.”
Colombian journalists and anti-corruption groups have accused Barbosa of serious conflicts of interest, warning that, under Duque and Barbosa, “democracy seems to be more at risk than ever.”
Duque is in power due in no small part to support from notorious Colombian drug lord José Guillermo “Ñeñe” Hernández. When a recording was leaked proving that Duque used illegal dirty money from Ñeñe to bribe Colombians and buy votes in the 2018 election that gave him the presidency, Duque’s good friend Barbosa made sure to sweep the scandal under the rug.
Ecuador’s former foreign minister and defense minister, Ricardo Patiño, condemned “the hasty general prosecutor of Colombia who comes to interfere in Ecuador’s electoral process with fraudulent information.”
Another ex-foreign minster of Ecuador, María Isabel Salvador, who also served as the nation’s ambassador to the OAS, noted that the Colombian government’s absurd attempt to link Arauz to ELN guerrillas echoes a tactic used a decade ago against Correa.
“What are they trying to do? Prevent the victory of hope and truth,” Salvador stated. “I remember like it was yesterday the same slander used by the government of Colombia (when [Álvaro] Uribe was president) and its media outlets.”
Salvador recalled that the government of Colombia’s former President Uribe circulated a photo purporting to show Ecuador’s then-Security Minister Gustavo Larrea with Raúl Reyes, a former commander of Colombia’s socialist guerrilla group the FARC.
Although the Uribe government and Colombian media outlets spread the photo far and wide, it turned out to be another fabrication. The man in the photo was not an official from Correa’s government; he was not even Ecuadorian. Rather, he was an Argentine communist.
Colombia’s major newspaper El Tiempo was forced to issue a retraction, admitting the story was a lie.
“The old strategies are being repeated,” wrote the ex-Foreign Minister Salvador. “The old practices as well, although today the government [of Ecuador], dedicated to other interests and not those of the Ecuadorian people, is a partner in this defamation. And… nothing is a coincidence.”