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Some in Miami Spanish-language media falsely blame Black Lives Matter, antifa in riot

The 100,000 people who tuned into Alexander Otaolas YouTube program to hear his thoughts immediately after Wednesdays deadly insurrection in the nations capital heard the Spanish-language, social media influencer downplay the violence and cast blame on the left.
Protesting isnt illegal, said Otaola, of Miami, who emerged last year as instrumental in building South Florida support for President Donald Trump. Even though Democrats want to demonize what happened today and turn it into the worst thing thats ever happened, I believe that the last few months under the terror of Black Lives Matter and antifa has been the saddest period of time in the U.S.
Otaolas comments echoed talking points across conservative media after thousands of Trump supporters watched the president speak outside the White House and then marched on the U.S. Capitol Building, where they forced their way inside and interrupted a proceeding instrumental to the peaceful transition of power from Trump to President-elect Joe Biden. Five people died.
But his defensive depiction of an unprecedented riot and his inaccurate claim that no police were hurt show the extent to which some figures in Miamis Spanish-language media continue to promote Trumps divisive and often deceptive rhetoric to their audiences.
In an interview Thursday, Otaola said violence is indefensible, regardless of where it comes from be it the Republicans or Democrats, Black Lives Matter or patriots. He continued to point the finger at antifa a loose anti-fascist movement that sometimes embraces violence though theres no evidence it participated in Wednesdays mob.
But aside from the violence itself, whats also terrible is that a lot of people in the U.S. kept quiet when Portland was burning, or when Seattle was being dominated by antifa. No one spoke out with the fierceness we are now seeing, he said. For months, people [on the left] had been justifying violence.
What Otaola says and does matters. He was instrumental in organizing a series of massive pro-Trump car caravans last year in Miami. And his influence earned him an interview with Trump, translated by Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, just days before the election.
But Otaola is only one among a number of voices in Miamis Spanish-language media echoing Trumps allegations of fraud, suspicion of the civil rights movement and grievances against the mainstream media a trend that became a national story line during the presidential election.
In the aftermath of the Capitol siege, afternoon and evening hosts across Miami-Dades slate of popular AM Spanish-language radio stations continued to spread conspiracy theories about a stolen election, and either minimized or misrepresented the events that took place on Wednesday.
Antifa sent busloads of people to Washington, host Lucy Pereda said on Thursday on WWFEs La Poderosa 670 AM. There are photos of antifa people inside the Capitol They are the ones who started the assault, and Trump supporters just followed them.
A narrower, but equally false claim was made on Friday afternoon by Cuban-American radio host Agustin Acosta on Actualidad Radio, Miamis most popular AM radio station, when he alleged that a facial recognition firm had identified at least one antifa member in the mob that stormed the Capitol, echoing a widely shared (and debunked) news story from the Washington Times. Acostas co-host, Carines Moncada who last year made national news when she accused a Black Lives Matter co-founder of practicing witchcraft shared a link to that misleading story with her more than 45,000 Twitter followers.
On Thursday, during Moncada and Acostas daily, four-hour afternoon show, the pair argued that the violence and rioting that erupted over the summer in response to the police killing of George Floyd should be a bigger source of consternation than the Capitol siege.
These werent terrorists, the people who went to D.C., said Acosta, adding later that the biggest harm done by the riot was that it interrupted efforts to object to electoral fraud in the presidential election. That opportunity was completely destroyed because the entire night, lawmakers were focused on denouncing the events of the afternoon. Extraordinary damage was done.
Not all of Spanish-language media is problematic, of course. There are responsible journalists and analysts who work in the industry. But Roberto Rodriguez Tejera, who co-hosts a morning program on Actualidad, said in an interview that unscrupulous actors are a significant problem.
You can put on a radio station at anytime and you can find the same narrative: The election has been stolen, he said.
Tejera said an important distinction in Spanish-language media is that its in a different language, so nobody pays attention to what we do. We get away with murder.
Phillip M. Carter, a socio-linguist and scholar of language and culture at Florida International University, where he focuses his work on Latino communities in the U.S., said truth distortions are just as likely to be found in English talk radio as they are on Spanish-language shows. But he said the latter pose a bigger problem in South Florida because of Spanish-language programmings bigger reach.
Its about the language dynamics and the political dynamics in South Florida, Carter said. Theres a sense in which saying things in Spanish is not subject to critique because Spanish is constructed here as a minority language, even though it is, in a way, the majority language.
And the narratives influence the public.
Among the listeners of Spanish-language talk radio is Cuban immigrant Caridad Gomez. On Tuesday, she had gotten her favorite host, La Poderosas Hilda Rabilero, to promote a caravan Gomez had organized to bus fellow Trump supporters from Miami to Washingto, D.C., later that day. The meeting point was La Carreta on Bird Road, a Cuban eatery that has since the election served as a popular backdrop for pro-Trump protests.
Rabilero had mentioned the caravan after railing against flagrant electoral fraud and asking listeners to get in touch with Florida senators and members of Congress to urge them to reject the certification of Bidens win. Thirty-seven people wound up traveling to D.C. on Gomezs rented bus.
While on the road back to Miami two days later, Gomez said her group wasnt part of the mob that burst into the halls of the Capitol. But she raised the prospect of continuing disturbances in rejection of Bidens win.
This was only the appetizer. We are not going to take it, Gomez said. Im willing to give my life to save this country. If it had been me getting shot yesterday, I would have been happy.
El Nuevo Herald reporter Jimena Tavel contributed to this reportread more

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