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US govt-linked PR firm ran fake news networks for right-wing Latin American regimes

A Washington, DC-based PR firm linked to the US government and Democratic Party, CLS Strategies, ran a fake news network on Facebook and Instagram, spreading propaganda for Bolivia’s coup regime and the right-wing opposition in Venezuela and Mexico.

by Ben Norton

Part 8 - CLS Strategies signs PR contract with corrupt Mexican President Peña Nieto

In addition to representing the drug-linked Honduran coup regime and death squad aficionado Álvaro Uribe, Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates also worked for the transition team of Mexico’s notoriously corrupt President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Peña Nieto allegedly won the presidential election on July 1, 2012. Just five days later, on July 6, he signed a contract with Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates.

The PR firm agreed, for a monthly fee of $50,000, to “provide communications counsel and assistance to the transition team including dissemination of news/announcements from the transition team.

Once again, CLS consultant Juan Cortiñas Garcia registered with FARA to represent Peña Nieto, pledging to work on “Public relations, communications and media relations related to election/presidential transition” and “Potential distribution of materials or information to U.S. media, policymakers or third parties.

CLS Strategies’ involvement with Peña Nieto during this transition period is especially controversial, because he was credibly accused of rigging the 2012 election. It appears the firm was hired to try to deal with these very serious, substantiated accusations.

Then-presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who came in second place (and now serves as the president of Mexico), immediately cast doubt on the 2012 election results. López Obrador gathered evidence showing how Peña Nieto’s neoliberal party PRI bribed voters, buying huge sums of votes.

In 2016, these accusations were confirmed by a prominent Colombian hacker named Andrés Sepúlveda. Sepúlveda, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for spying on Colombian officials, told Bloomberg that he was given a budget of $600,000 to assemble a team of hackers to rig the 2012 Mexican presidential election. Bloomberg reported that he and his fellow hackers “stole campaign strategies, manipulated social media to create false waves of enthusiasm and derision, and installed spyware in opposition offices, all to help Peña Nieto, a right-of-center candidate, eke out a victory.

The corruption scandals involving Enrique Peña Nieto grow larger by the year.

In 2019, it was reported that Peña Nieto had accepted a $100 million bribe from the drug kingpin El Chapo, according to a witness at the drug trafficker’s trial.

Then in August 2020, the former head of Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex, revealed how the Peña Nieto administration had overseen a massive bribery scheme to push through the government’s neoliberal economic policies.

Peña Nieto had campaigned on a promise of “energy reform” — that is to say, privatization of Mexico’s oil industry, which had been controlled by the state practically since the revolution. To push through these unpopular neoliberal policies, Peña Nieto took millions of dollars of bribes from the Brazilian corporation Odebrecht, which were rewarded with lucrative government contracts.

Peña Nieto then apparently used that dirty money to buy political support inside Mexico. Leaked videos show that the Peña Nieto administration handed out cash in transparent plastic bags to get the votes needed to pass the privatization policies.

CLS Strategies’ work for this cartoonishly corrupt Mexican president was particularly noteworthy because, according to Facebook, the firm went on to create fake accounts to spread propaganda against Mexico’s current President López Obrador, or AMLO, a left-wing nationalist.

The Grayzone has reported on the escalating campaign by right-wing oligarchs to overthrow AMLO, and the opposition’s links to the United States.

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