Sunday 24 September 2023

Government denies links to troll networks

"Alleged unilateral and personal actions of some officials" official government position

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QCOSTARICA – The government of Rodrigo Chaves is distancing itself from the “troll farm” scandal that places the current minister of Health, Joselyn Chacón, in center stage.

Minister of Health, Joselyn Chacón, is taking the heat for paying a troll after the government has officially distanced itself from the scandal. Image from La Republica

“The Government of the Republic categorically rejects the assertions without foundation or evidence made by Mr. Alberto Vargas and issued through the fictitious character Piero Calandrelli. The alleged unilateral and personal actions of some officials linked to the Executive Branch and other agencies do not reflect the Government’s actions,” the Executive Branch indicated in a press release.

The Executive Branch indicated that any alleged sum of money that has been paid to that character by a government official, including Joselyn Chacón, Minister of Health, was made “unilaterally and personally” and that it does not reflect in any way the communication strategy of the Chaves administration.

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Read more: Troll claims to have been paid by Health Minister for attacks on journalists

This is the first time that the government refers to the issue, after two weeks of complaints and controversy.

In the last week of the last year, the Facebook page “Piero Calandrelli” managed by Alberto Jesús Vargas Zúñiga, alleged evidence of communications with the Minister of Health, where the Minister asked him to make publications against the media and journalists. Apparently, the minister did not pay the troll’s services and this led him to file a complaint.

Chacón acknowledged having made several payments to “Piero Calandrelli”; however, she stated that she did it out of her own pocket and with the aim of promoting various health policies, including the promotion of vaccination.

On Tuesday, the troll raised the tone of the controversy and denounced on his Facebook profile that in reality, Casa Presidencial (Government House) has a team of trolls working for it.

“I applaud the position of the Association of Journalists to demand accounts from the Executive Branch on the use of trolls; Well, I was not the only one, there was a group led by two people, sub-led by six people and accompanied by a digital communication medium, five pages, and several fully identified TikTok accounts. Today that topic was being discussed, and from the content they generate in addition to other evidence, it is obvious that they receive orders ‘from above’. They attack me so much for a reason… from what I know,” said the troll.

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The controversy surrounding this issue has led several opposition legislators to call for Chacón’s departure from the government, including Andrea Álvarez of the PLN and Antonio Ortega of the Frente Amplio.

“Costa Rica deserves to start the year without Joselyn Chacón leading the Ministry of Health. Apart from the President and Pilar Cisneros, who can defend her?” Ortega said.

What is troll in social media?

Trolling is when someone post or comments online to deliberately publish misinformation and even dirty the image of their target. In short: Trolling is when someone deliberately posts or comments online to ‘bait’ people, which means deliberately provoking an argument or emotional reaction.

Trolls often post under a fake name or anonymously, so they can say things without being held responsible. This makes it difficult to identify who actually left the post or comment.

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“Being a troll in Costa Rica is very profitable, but embarrassing,” Alberto Jesús Vargas Zúñiga, known as “Piero Calandrelli” told the Diario Extra.

Alberto Jesús Vargas Zúñiga, known as “Piero Calandrelli”

Vargas added that representatives of the Republic “are his friends”, with whom he shares “WhatsApp messages and lunches” and affirms that Joselyn Chacón paid him ¢100,000 a month to publish content that ranged from attacking the media to generating content for Casa Presidencial.


According to Vargas, the character Piero Calandrelli was born in 2011 in honor of his best friend who passed away and that was his name.

“That’s why I named it“Piero Calandrelli, born on the Hi5 network and later evolved to Facebook and TikTok. I have always liked politics and social media. Until now I have received money to work in politics. People believe that the PAC or other parties paid me before, but it is false,” said Vargas.

From the Diario Extra interview:

Q: How does a troll operate?

A:  A troll operates as follows: they hire you, they tell you “Attack X person or speak well of X person”. They attack a message or a means of communication. It’s directed. They still pass you work orders. Other times they pass you material for you to share. That was done by Mrs. Pilar (Cisneros). It’s that plain and simple.

Q: How much do they pay him? Is it profitable to be a troll?

A: It is quite profitable. Depending on the number of accounts you have and work, you can receive between ¢145,000 and ¢500,000 per week. I worked for Mayuli Ortega (official of Casa Presidencial). I received a single payment of ¢100,000 because I was out of money.






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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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