'Defcon 1 moment': New Spanish-language conservative network fuels fresh Dem fears over disinfo, Latino outreach

Latino voters are showing signs of drifting to the right more often, and analysts warn that there will be a new wave in disinformation before the elections.

'Defcon 1 moment': New Spanish-language conservative network fuels fresh Dem fears over disinfo, Latino outreach

MIAMI -- Tuesday morning's launch of the nation's first Spanish language conservative network on satellite radio opens a new front in political information warfare against Latinos in America and elsewhere.

Americano is the name of the network. It arrives at a critical moment in U.S. politics. More Hispanic voters are showing signs that they are drifting right, and Democrats continue to raise alarm about Spanish-language right wing disinformation on local radio, especially in Miami, Americano's home.

The network will launch on SiriusXM radio first, and then streaming TV in the summer. It offers a mix news programming as well as commentary. It has strong ties to the campaign of former President Donald Trump and to former Florida Governor. Jeb Bush is now the representative of the moderate wing. Democrats in Florida expressed concern that the Tuesday broadcast would encourage the spreading of false claims targeting Spanish-speakers, which has skyrocketed since the pandemic of 1918 and the 2020 campaign.

Ivan Garcia-Hidalgo was Americano's CEO and founder. He was furious at the idea that the privately funded network would spread misinformation or disinformation and accused Democrats of trying cancel speech they don’t like.

"They're scared. In an interview Garcia-Hidalgo stated that Democrats should be scared. "Democrats have taken Hispanics for granted too long. And no one thought to make a home in conservative media for us. This is what the public wants. It's everywhere you look on social media. It is also visible in elections.

This is more evident in Miami-Dade County in the United States. It's home to a large, dynamic, Latin American population. Trump significantly improved his performance in this area between 2016 and 2020. Exile communities made up of people who fled violence or leftist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua fueled the former president's support.

Trump's strong anti-socialist sentiment was not the only thing he did. He also increased his Latino support nationally by putting emphasis on blue collar, probusiness, and anti Covid lockdown messages. These messages resonated better with Hispanic voters, from Florida to Texas to Wisconsin to Texas to the Texas border.

Democrats have, however, pointed out that Trump's gains were partly due to a flood Spanish-language disinformation during the run-up to 2020 and that he still lost Hispanic voters nationwide by double-digit margins. A third of Latinos vote Republican in the United States.

Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based pollster who managed Barack Obama's successful national Hispanic outreach, worries that Americano could succeed politically, even if it does not spread conspiracies or falsehoods.

"This is a Defcon 1 moment for those who are concerned about the disinformation problem affecting Democrats' chances with Hispanics. Amandi stated that we should be concerned. "The Democrats' response is to all the Hispanic outreach by Republicans -- disinformation or traditional campaigning -- to do the minimum. Some Democrats are fooling themselves. This is the ultimate act of disinformation.

Evelyn Perez Verdia, a Democratic consultant, raised the alarm about the spread of Spanish-language disinformation in WhatsApp chat groups, and on websites in 2020. She called the launch "concerning," amid what she calls a new wave of misleading or false information in advance of the midterm elections.

She is from Colombia and she claimed that she fears that her homeland is a major source for right-wing conspiratorial content on social media. This content ricochets across national borders, which fuels the rise of an international organised right.

"Is this new network going be one more organization, or one more group that only amplifies the current situation?" Perez-Verdia stated that this was very concerning.

She stated that she sees 2020's patterns repeating itself and that it could have significant electoral consequences in key battlegrounds such as Arizona, Texas, and Florida this year.

"It's intensifying. It's getting worse, because it's closer to the election," Perez-Verdia said. He also addressed a congressional commission that visited Miami last month to study the issue.

One Miami pundit made a comparison between Black Lives Matter and satanism to illustrate the extent of disinformation. Another incorrectly suggested Black Lives Matter's activists behind the Capitol Riot on Jan. 6, 2021. It was carried out by a mob made up of Trump supporters.

However, Americano's contributors do not include some of the Spanish-language pundits from Miami who are far-right and have been under fire by Democrats for spreading misinformation.

They must be as wide-ranging as possible in order to make this work. It cannot be what you hear on Miami Cuban Radio," stated a top Hispanic Republican consultant, who examined the market under anonymity in order to give an assessment.

According to the consultant, there are 41 million Spanish-speaking Americans living in the United States. However, Americano's potential audience is only 10 million.

The consultant stated that the market was too small to support far-right content and Americano would need to rely on private investors for more time than one year to make a profit.

Given the growing political trends and the apparent appetite for conservative views via social media, and the surge in deep-pocketed conservatives financing new media ventures, Americano may be uniquely placed to carve out a niche. Joe Peyronnin is a New York University journalism Professor who was vice president of information and news programming at Spanish-language Telemundo (owned by NBC News' parent company NBCUniversal).

"Never before has there ever been a chance for conservative media to target Spanish language voters and listeners." The technology is available and there is discomfort with politics. Peyronnin stated that the network has the potential to profit from this discomfort. However, he was unsure about its commercial viability.

He said, "I don’t know what the play here is or how to define profitable." Is it an ideological or financial play?

Americano's chief investor officer Thomas Woolston said that he is so confident in the company's finances that he is its top investor. However, the network refused to disclose other investors. After winning a $30 million lawsuit against eBay, he made his fortune. The appeals court ruled in Woolston's favor. This patent allows people to sell products and set prices online.

Woolston stated, "When I invented online bidding, there was nothing similar -- there wasn't Yahoo or Google -- it was completely greenfield." This is the exact same thing. Spanish-language conservative media are completely free. It's going be an advantage for the first person to move.

Americano's former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo stated that the company has investors and not donors. (Caputo isn't related to the author).

"I do this because it will be a profitable business. He joked that he could use some extra money following the Russia investigation.

Although he was never accused of wrongdoing Caputo was swept into the investigation by Robert Mueller, former special counsel. This investigation focused on Russia's interference in 2016 elections. It involved Caputo's past involvement in Kremlin-linked Russian propaganda as well as his support for the 2016 Trump campaign. Miami Democrats have started a whisper campaign to say that Caputo's involvement in Americano was evidence of disinformation.

Caputo stated that Americano revolves around Ronald Reagan's former president, "Latinos Are Republicans." They don't even know it.

Caputo stated that "Hispanics move toward us." They're jumping in the Republican pond. We're giving them a pad of lily pads to land on. Some will land on the Donald Trump pad. Some will land on Reagan. Some are for Jeb Bush."

Joaquin Blaya was a Telemundo and Univision founders. He wondered if a Miami-based network could effectively broadcast to Spanish-speakers from all backgrounds. Although Miami is dominated politically by conservative-leaning Cuban Americans (they're a minority among the larger U.S. Latino community, which has more Puerto Ricans and Mexican-Americans), they tend to vote more Democratic.

"The Miami market does not compare to any other market in the United States. Blaya stated that Miami is an entirely different country.

Americano's founders claim they don't wear their Miami Cuban American blinders and are open to representing all Republican beliefs in Spanish. Garcia-Hidalgo mentions that he was born and raised in Peru, and served as a surrogate for Trump.

Jorge Arrizurieta is Americano's president and is from Cuba. He is close to Bush.

"A conservative is defined as someone who believes in conservatism today." Arrizurieta stated that this is a place for them all. "Ivan is a Trump man. I'm a Jeb Bush conservative."

Americano's radio broadcast is ironic in that it's possible because of minority set-asides which conservatives frequently oppose.

Americano will broadcast on SiriusXM channel 53 in partnership with National Latino Broadcasting. This company won the rights to channel 152 and channel 153 in 2012 to ensure that satellite radio was accessible to Hispanic listeners.

Nelson Albareda (a Cuban American businessman) is the owner of National Latino Broadcasting. He is a Grammy- and Latin Grammy Award-winning producer. His attention is now on Channel 152, "En Vivo," that plays Latin music.

Albareda stated that he wasn't able to make a Spanish language talk show on his channel 153. It's called "La Politica Talk" and has had a few low-performing shows. It essentially rebroadcasts Radio Marti (the U.S-funded network that was aimed at a Cuban audience, which was created partly to challenge communist rule.

Garcia-Hidalgo served as Trump's surrogate in 2016. He stated that he felt the need for a "Rush Limbaugh" in Spanish to counter what he perceived as rampant liberal biases in Spanish-language media. Garcia-Hidalgo landed at NTN24 in Colombia a few years later and quickly had "Batalla Politica," which is a political battle, alongside Jose Aristimuno (Democratic Commentator).

Garcia-Hidalgo won't host a show as CEO but that experience helped him see there was a market in the U.S. for conservative Spanish-language content and there was a demand across the hemisphere. Viewers and listeners could reach them like never before through satellite radio, streaming TV, and the internet.

He joined forces to Arrizurieta and Caputo, an ex-Army spokesman, and Trump administration adviser, who now serves as Americano's senior Vice President of Communications. Soon, they signed a partnership agreement with Albareda's National Latino Broadcasting.

At 6 a.m., the first Americano broadcast will begin. ET Tuesday with "Amanecer con Dios", or "Sunrise with God," an interview about faith hosted by a Roman Catholic priest.

The remainder of the day's programming features are more political. Americano has 29 reporters and a commentator, according to its founders. They will broadcast from a studio located near Casino Miami, one the last jai alai arenas in the region.

It is equipped for TV broadcasts. Queen Latifah shot a movie there once, and many entertainers such as Rick Ross to Gloria Estefan have used it. According to those involved, Americano will offer its shows via its app and podcast platforms by next month. The network plans to stream all its shows via video on platforms that include Apple TV and PlayStation by August.

Americano's founders are mindful of the potential risks and rewards of social media deplatforming. They have diversified the outlets to make sure they do not.

"We may put snippets of our program on YouTube, but they'll probably cancel us." Garcia-Hidalgo stated that this is what they do.

Arrizurieta added: "Might make for good publicity."

CORRECTION (7 March 2007, 6:37 a.m. ET: An earlier version of this article misidentified the birthplace of Jorge Arrizurieta (the Cuban American president of Americano Network), He was not Cuban, but Miami Beach.

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