Argentina’s central bank is not issuing currency notes featuring Messi

Reports based on a joke allegedly made during a central bank meeting

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Claim: The Banco Central de la República Argentina (BCRA), or the Central Bank of the Argentine Republic, has or is set to issue banknotes featuring the face of Argentine professional footballer Lionel Messi following the victory of the country’s national team in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Fact: The press department of the Central Bank of Argentina has denied the reports. Moreover, the claim originated from a report in El Financiero, a Mexican news outlet, which said it was based on a joke allegedly made during a meeting.

On 22 December 2022, @hellopakistan posted on Instagram a visual featuring the face of Lionel Messi on a 1,000 Argentine pesos banknote with the following text:

LIONEL MESSI TO BE HONORED WITH HIS OWN BANKNOTE AFTER HISTORIC WORLD CUP VICTORY. Argentina’s Central Bank is reportedly considering a proposal to feature the face of football superstar Lionel Messi on the 1,000-Peso bill.

The news came following Argentina’s victory in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The claim went viral, with multiple media outlets regurgitating the claims without any verification or source.

Fact or Fiction?

Soch Fact Check used reverse image search tools to ascertain that the visual showing Lionel Messi’s face on Argentinian currency appeared on the Daily Mail and was attributed to Twitter; however, it did not specify which account posted it.

Interestingly, most outlets that have reported the claim cited El Financiero, which did not use the image in question.

The article by El Financiero contains the following excerpt, clearly stating that the “option was ‘jokingly’ proposed by members of the Argentine Central Bank”.

Y antes de que pienses otra cosa, esta opción fue propuesta ‘en broma’ por los miembros del Banco Central Argentino, aunque los directores más entusiasmados, como Lisandro Cleri, ferviente simpatizante de Boca Juniors, y Eduardo Hecker, seguidor de Independiente, coincidieron en que un billete con este diseño despertaría el espíritu coleccionista de los argentinos.

Which translates to:

And before you think otherwise, this option was ‘jokingly’ proposed by members of the Argentine Central Bank, although the most enthusiastic directors, such as Lisandro Cleri, a fervent supporter of Boca Juniors, and Eduardo Hecker, a follower of Independiente, agreed on that a banknote with this design would awaken the collecting spirit of Argentines.

According to the Argentine Central Bank’s website, the last 1,000 pesos banknote was issued on 1 December 2017

Mexican fact-checking outlet, AnimalPolitico, told Soch Fact Check, “I can anticipate that it is misinformation. In the same note that he shares from El Financiero, he says that it is a joke.”

“‘Y antes de que pienses otra cosa, esta opción fue propuesta ‘en broma’ por los miembros del Banco Central Argentino’ translates into English as ‘And before you think otherwise, this option was ‘jokingly’ proposed by the members of the Argentine Central Bank’.”

A number of signatories of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) have also debunked the claim, such as Chequeado of Argentina, as well as Newschecker, You Turn, and BOOM Live of India.

Chequeado quoted Argentine Central Bank’s press department as saying there is no information about the supposed 1,000-peso banknote as a tribute to Messi. It also linked an article by Bloomberg Línea, which reports on Latin America and the Hispanic world.

Bloomberg Línea said sources at the Central Bank of Argentina “ruled out” the possibility of banknotes featuring Messi’s face even being considered. Officials at the Casa de la Moneda — the Argentine mint — “were also surprised” by reports doing the rounds on social media. “In both cases, in fact, they humorously took the version before dismissing it outright.”

BOOM Live quoted Fernando Alonso, Senior Manager of Communications and Community Relations at the Central Bank of Argentina, as saying the claims were “fake”. Alonso told the publication, “There is no truth in this. This topic is not on the work agenda.”

Virality

Soch Fact Check found that numerous Pakistani news outlets such as The Current, Geo News Sports, and Pak Observer published the false claims, while others did the same here and here.

The false claim was shared here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here on Facebook, here, here, here, here, and here on Twitter, and here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here on Instagram.

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the seven-day period from 19 December 2022 to 26 December using the following search terms:

  • “messi banknote”
  • “ارجنٹائن بینک میسی”

The first search term turned up 329 Facebook posts and 59 Instagram posts, which gained 89,017 and 569,814 interactions, respectively. The second search term showed 1,018 and 1,150 interactions across 11 Facebook posts and three Instagram posts, respectively.

Conclusion: The claim is false. The Central Bank of Argentina has denied the reports.

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