Correa’s Social-Media Troll Center Exposed in Quito


Espa帽ol An investigation released on Tuesday, March 24, by Fundaci贸n Mil Hojas has revealed one of the alleged social-media troll centers of the Citizen Revolution in Ecuador.

The report unveils previously unpublished images of Ribeney SA, an office located in an exclusive business district in Quito, decorated with photographs and poster images of President Rafael Correa and Che Guevara. According to Mil Hojas, Ribeney employees operate multiple social-media accounts dedicated to monitoring and attacking the Ecuadorian opposition.

A photograph released by Foundaci贸n 1000 Hojas of the office of Ribeney SA shows alleged social-media trolls hard at work for President Correa.
A photograph released by Foundaci贸n Mil Hojas of the office of Ribeney SA shows alleged social-media trolls hard at work for President Correa. (Fundaci贸n Mil Hojas)
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According to the Companies Registry of Quito, Ribeney has two shareholders: Carlos Venegas Qui帽onez and his son, Carlos Venegas Chamorro. It started operations in August 2013, with an initial capital of less than US$1,000.

Jairo Vera Lino is listed as the general manager of the business. According to information provided by the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security (IESS), Vera’s previous work experience includes time as a farm laborer in the province of Manab铆.

Moreover, the company signed a 90-day contract in November 2013 with the Ministry of Strategic Sectors worth over $200,000 to design a strategic media campaign to help strengthen oil exploration in the country.

The address of Ribeney’s headquarters in Quito matches the address registered by the company Medaglia SA, where Venegas Chamorro is also a shareholder.

According to the Superintendency of Companies, Medaglia was incorporated in January 2011, and is managed by Ra煤l Ernst Edwards. It was initially registered with the same address of two other advertising agencies connected to the government, Percrea and Ximah Digital.

Percrea is managed by Carlos Alvarado, brother of Fernando and Vinicio Alvarado, both senior government officials. In addition, Mil Hojas reports it was former employees of Percrea that initially formed Ximah.

“The hard work of the #Mashitrolls; this is how trends are created in #Ecuador.”

Mil Hojas alleges that聽Medaglia currently holds contracts with the Ecuadorian government worth over a million dollars. The government awarded the company seven of those contracts between 2013 and 2014, including a “citizen strategy contract” worth $270,000, and a child-labor awareness campaign worth over聽$160,000.

PanAm Post contacted Fundaci贸n Mil Hojas for comment on this story, but that request was not immediately returned. The Ecuadorian government has not yet responded to the allegations.

Correa and the Trolls, a Context

Allegations of government-sponsored trolls operating on Ecuador’s social networks are nothing new. In 2012, Fernando Balda, a former congressman, ruling-party ally, and now one of Correa’s harshest critics, revealed on his blog that he once offered a reward for information on corruption within Ecuador’s government.

As a result, an anonymous user replied to Balda with a聽list of social-media accounts created exclusively to defend President Correa from his critics and mainstream journalists.

In September 2014, the “Twitter gate” scandal deepened when an alleged hacker posted a video to YouTube revealing Juan Carlos V谩scones, CEO of Ximah Digital, as one of the Facebook page administrators for El Patriota (The Patriot), a notorious Correa troll.

V谩scones later admitted that his company created a fanpage for El Patriota, but denied being involved in the creation of the Twitter account. The issue escalated when reports later confirmed V谩scones as Ecuador’s representative for IMSCorp, Twitter’s commercial partner in Latin America.

In January 2015, President Correa launched Somos +, a website created with the express purpose of responding to social-media users who 鈥渟mear鈥 the government.

Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.

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