Alex Saab candidate for Nobel Peace Prize? Chavista troops do their job and position narrative on Twitter

Alex Saab candidate for Nobel Peace Prize? Chavista troops do their job and position narrative on Twitter

Published on 16 Feb 2023

The hashtag #AlexNobelDeLaPaz was posted on February 6.

  • The nomination, made by one of the four co-winners of the 2015 Award, implies no honor, validation or credential; not only because of those who have previously been nominated before, but because there is no verification of quality or merit in the nomination process
  • The hashtag #AlexNobelDeLaPaz was positioned on February 6 by spokespersons of the #FreeAlexSaab movement and amplified by the MIPPCI account, boosting this trend inorganically.

Everything indicates that Alex Saab, the same who is currently in a prison in the United States accused of money laundering and of being the alleged front man of Nicolás Maduro, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This nomination seems to open another chapter in the campaign coordinated by the government to wash the face of a character who is implicated in multiple acts of corruption and who, at some point, was even revealed to have acted as a double agent when contacted by the DEA to provide information on the Chavista regime.

The nomination of Alex Saab appears to be an orchestrated act not only to generate a positive perspective on the controversial businessman, but to gain momentum and taint the conversation on social media.

From the Twitter account of the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information (MIPPCI), on February 6, an order was issued to the Chavista troops that make life in this social network to amplify the hashtag #AlexNobelDeLaPaz, achieving an inorganic positioning of the topic and giving it relevance in the digital conversation.

But how is it possible that a character like Alex Saab could be nominated for this award, who nominated him, how was the Twitter campaign to promote the nomination promoted, and one of the most important questions: is it possible for him to win?

Who nominates Alex Saab for the Nobel Peace Prize?

On February 5, 2023, the vice president of the Tunisian League for Human Rights, Najat Zemmouri, one of the four co-winners of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, gave an interview to the Lebanese media Al Mayadeen revealing that they had submitted a dossier to support the nomination of Colombian Alex Saab for the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize.

Indeed, the League is part of the “Quartet for National Dialogue”, which received the 2015 award but is also made up of the Tunisian General Labor Union, the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Crafts and the National Order of Tunisian Lawyers.

The announcement of Saab’s nomination by Zemmouri was topped off with a documentary produced by the news agency called “Alex Saab, prisoner of war”, as well as constant notes of support including cartoons, press releases from the Venezuelan embassy in Nicaragua and an interview with Laila Tajeldine, who is described as “lawyer, university professor, political, international and human rights analyst” part of Saab’s defense team, as her Twitter account also states.

In the interview, conducted by Wafica Ibrahim, who also had the exclusive with the spokeswoman of the Tunisian League, it is not indicated that Tajeldine also collaborates for the website of the Al Mayadeen channel, which has been characterized by its closeness to the regimes of Syria and Iran, calling the rebels against Bashar al-Assad “terrorists”.

Tajeldine has written 13 opinion pieces in Al Mayadeen on Latin America, the United States and Venezuela, including five on Alex Saab that support the Nicolás Maduro government’s narrative of treating the Barranquilla native’s detention as an illegally arrested Venezuelan diplomat. The lawyer is also part of the Venezuela News team, which replicated the Al Mayadeen story and with whom she even received an Anibal Nazoa award in 2022, which is given by the so-called Necessary Journalism Movement, which has “denounced media censorship” against Russia.

In addition, Tajeldine has recently been interviewed by media that make up the network supporting Alex Saab’s inauthentic coordinated campaign, such as Resumen Latinoamericano (which was replicated by the website of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV) and Fuser News (quoting the Venezuelan embassy in Syria), as well as in the Russian state media Sputnik and ActualidadRT, where she also serves as an international analyst.

Propaganda on Twitter: how Saab’s nomination was promoted online

Al Mayadeen’s news about Alex Saab’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize was replicated on the morning of February 6 on Twitter by the Venezuela News portal, and replicated by spokespersons of the #FreeAlexSaab movement, as is the case of Roi López Rivas, who also gave a radio interview on February 7 that was widely replicated on Twitter using the same hashtag #AlexNobelDeLaPaz.

According to data reported by Observatorio Digital ProBox, on the morning of February 6 at 08:00 a.m. the hashtag #AlexNobelDeLaPaz was identified as trending with just over 8,000 messages. This hashtag was being promoted by users linked to Radical Officialism who have been demanding Alex Saab’s freedom on Twitter since March 2021.

The message that initiates the request to promote this trend refers to the official nomination of Saab as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, by the Tunisian League of Human Rights, with a video of VTV.

However, the real momentum of the trend in favor of Alex Saab’s nomination was generated at 1:24 p.m. that same day, when the Ministry of People’s Power for Communication and Information (MIPPCI) promoted the same hashtag that until then was mostly used by members of the so-called “Free Alex Saab Movement”. This triggered the trend that managed to accumulate more than 314 thousand tweets.

ProBox’s analysis showed that 94.19% of the publications with the hashtag #AlexNobelDeLaPaz were made by automated or inauthentically coordinated accounts, which implies that they repeated the messages with the same texts, with little difference and in the same period of time, contrary to the natural behavior of human groups that have different schedules, habits and ideas.

The ProBox report also showed that the word “hashtag” was among the most used words in the tweets that used #AlexNobelDeLaPaz. This was due to the replication of MIPPCI’s institutional tweet announcing the promotion of the same. Likewise, it can be seen how this hashtag appears in tweets together with the hashtag #SomosPasiónBéisbol in messages without any relation to Alex Saab or the Caribbean Series, as can be seen here.

This is another example of the coordinated and inorganic promotion of trends, without real support or popular interest, but financed by programs such as Tuiteros de la Patria or coordination of institutional accounts, which violates the Twitter Rules and violates the freedom of expression of Venezuelans on the Internet.

Why is it so surprising that Alex Saab is nominated?

For those who still do not know the whole story of Alex Saab, this Colombian lawyer and businessman linked to the Venezuelan regime was accused by former Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz of being a front man for Nicolas Maduro and by the United States of seven counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit that crime.

According to an investigation by the Armando Info portal, he is “the man to whom Nicolás Maduro entrusted the supply of food for the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP), to whom he gave the state network Abastos Bicentenario, to whom he gave the commercialization of Venezuelan gold or the construction of the ‘vertical gyms’, among other businesses”. He is also linked to the Gran Misión Vivienda Venezuela and the regional currency “Sucre”, which never materialized.

On June 12, 2020, following accusations of money laundering made by the U.S. Department of Justice that generated the issuance of an Interpol red alert, Alex Saab was arrested in Cape Verde and brought to justice.

Since the day of his arrest in Cape Verde, on June 12, 2020, Cazadores de Fake News followed up on the massive campaign deployed in social networks, traditional media and physical spaces aimed at influencing Venezuelan and international public opinion with a set of narratives favorable to the Bolivarian government on the Saab case. This operation of influence is made up of dozens of informative incidents investigated until December 2022, which obey tactics, techniques and procedures executed publicly or covertly by diplomats, lawyers, media, journalists and several public relations companies involved, in at least four different countries.

Many of these incidents made use of disinformation, including the dissemination of fake news, actions to manipulate social networks, the promotion of inauthentic trends on social networks, and the activation of networks of fake accounts. Disinformation was a useful tool for different reasons: to simulate widespread popular support for Alex Saab that is not real, to affect the credibility of journalists, media and investigators of his case, and to divert the attention of public opinion while events are taking place that may damage the image and outcome of the businessman’s trial.

How is it possible for Alex Saab to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?

It is not usually rare, or even meritorious, to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Not only Hitler (satirically) but also Stalin and Mussolini were nominated, twice each.

In 2022 there were 343 candidates but the highest number remains that of 2016, with 376 candidates between individuals and organizations.

And this is because, according to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s website, “any person or organization can be nominated by anyone eligible to nominate. There is no verification of nominations before the nomination deadline, therefore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has no influence on the quality of the submissions.”

The text goes on to explain that “the task of the Committee is strictly limited to selecting the best candidate(s) from the full list of submissions. Therefore, the mere fact of being nominated is neither an official endorsement nor an honor bestowed by the Nobel Committee, and cannot be used to imply affiliation with the Nobel Peace Prize or its related institutions.”

In 2021 it became known that Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of Norway’s Progress Party nominated then President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. He had already done so in 2016. A New York Times article details how the nomination before has been used as a lever of influence by previous presidents, and in Trump’s case, although he had neither a chance of winning nor did his submission imply any credentials.

And this was possible because among those eligible to nominate are the following, according to the updated criteria for April 2018:

a) Members of parliaments and governments of sovereign states, including their heads of state.

b) Members of the International Court of Justice of The Hague and the Permanent Court of Arbitration of The Hague.

c) Members of the Institut de Droit International Justitia et Pace (Institute of International Law – Justice and Peace).

d) Members of the International Board of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom).

e) University professors, emeritus or associate professors of history, social sciences, law, philosophy, theology or religion as well as university rectors and directors (or equivalent); directors of peace and foreign policy research institutions

f) Individuals who have won the Nobel Peace Prize

g) Members of the board of directors, or equivalent, of the organizations that have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

h) Current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and their former advisors

In the case of the Colombian businessman, step g) is fulfilled, which could make the nomination of the Colombian Alex Saab valid, although as the Committee also says, it does not imply any recognition, affiliation, nor does it endorse the quality of the nomination. In addition, there is a 50-year embargo to know both the nominees and those who nominated them. For example, we can currently consult the entire list of those who were nominated and their promoters for the Nobel Peace Prize between 1901 and 1972, although the latter year was not awarded.

The list includes emperors and kings of Prussia, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Belgium, the autocrats already named, several religious leaders and Gandhi who appears five times, but also Vladimir Putin (2013 and 2014) and Silvio Berlusconi.

A Venezuelan is also on the list of nominees: historian, journalist and archivist Carlos Medina (Median on file) Chirinos was nominated in 1926 by Philosophy professor José María Gonzales “for his authorship in peace” according to the archives of the Nobel Committee. Here you can read a profile of the nominee by Dr. Reyber Parra Contreras, chronicler of Maracaibo, although the nomination is not included.

How is the Nobel Peace Prize chosen?

After the nominations are received, eight steps are followed from September to September, including an eight-month deliberation process, until each year’s winner is known.

This path begins with the opening of nominations, which are received from September 1 of the previous year until January 31 of the year of the award. In other words, they are already closed for the 2023 award.

Valid nominations, i.e., nominated in this online form by some of the people listed above, are reviewed by the Norwegian Committee from mid-February to make a short list of who they believe may be the winners.

This list is submitted by the Committee to its advisors and other Norwegian and international experts, who make an individual report on each of those on the short list. It is usually ready by the end of April.

During the next few months, until the beginning of October, each profile will be studied with the reports made, extra information, consultations with experts and consultants until a much shorter list of a few candidates is finalized.

At the beginning of October, the five-member Committee chooses the winner or winners of the Nobel Peace Prize by simple majority vote, without appeal, and it is announced on the first Friday of the first full week of that same month. The cycle ends on December 10, when the ceremony is held in Oslo, Norway.

Venezuelan Laureates

Only four Venezuelan citizens have received the honor of receiving a Nobel Prize. In all three cases it has been shared or jointly.

The first was physician Baruch Benacerraf, first cousin of filmmaker Margot Benacerraf and born in Caracas in 1920 to a Sephardic Moroccan father and a Venezuelan Jewish mother. He passed away in Boston in 2011. His family had a famous fabric trading company in Caracas, were co-founders of Banco Union (which later became part of Banesco) and due to his father’s return to Paris, he had to travel constantly to Venezuela for family, business and scientific reasons. He even managed a bank in New York bought by his parents and their partners in Venezuela according to his biography published on the Nobel website.

He was jointly awarded with Jean Dausset and George D. Snell the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1980 for their discoveries on genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immune reactions.

In 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and to the former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. And among the Panel’s experts are three Venezuelans: Alicia Villamizar, Juan Carlos Sánchez and Rigoberto Anderssen.

Villamizar, a biologist with a PhD in sustainable development from Simon Bolivar University, is an active founding member of the Cátedra Libre de Cambio Climático (UCV), the Climate Change Academic Secretariat of the Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences of Venezuela (ACFIMAN) and the Think Tank Grupo Orinoco: Energy and Environment (Venezuela). He is currently leading the Second Academic Report on Climate Change, an independent report in the absence of official updated data, since Venezuela has only two National Communications on Climate Change, the last one published in 2017 with data from 2010.

Sánchez Martínez is an Industrial Engineer, specialized in Industrial Chemistry and Doctor in Environmental Sciences, who worked as an environmental advisor for Petróleos de Venezuela between 1979 and 2001 and has been a professor at UCV since 2002.

While Professor Anderssen, who passed away in 2015, was a Tachira geographer, teacher and researcher in geography, climatology, meteorology, ecology and atmospheric chemistry with postgraduate degrees in geography and applied meteorology at the Central University of Venezuela, holding various institutional and governmental scientific and academic positions.

Latin America accumulates only 17 of the 889 Nobel Prizes in all categories, in which Venezuela is represented only by Dr. Benacerraf. Argentina is the country that has won the most, with five.

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