Foreign Policy

Chavez is smarter than FARC, at least on Facebook

Sept 03--One of the most celebrated political uses of social networking in the last few years has been its embrace by the anti-FARC demonstrators in Colombia in February 2008. According to numerous reports in the media, millions of people poured into the streets of Bogota and other Colombian cities to protest against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the four-decade-old guerrilla group. Thousands joined similar marches held abroad; all in all, 165 cities had some kind of an anti-FARC activity going on.

3 de septiembre de 2009

What was really peculiar about the protests was that they were triggered by a grassroots Facebook campaign conducted by young Colombian professionals. DigiActive even published a research paper analyzing the value of Facebook and other social software for the purposes of organizing anti-FARC protests. The turnout was, indeed, very impressive: according to various estimates, from 500,000 to 2,000,000 people showed up.

It was a very successful experiment. So now, members of the anti-FARC network would like to use their honed Facebook-organizing skills to spur a global campaign against Hugo Chávez. The march -- widely publicized both on Facebook and Twitter -- is to take place on Sept 4th. According to Juan David Lacouture, one of the organizers, they expect 50 or 60 million people to join. A Facebook group called "No Mas Chávez!!!" ("No More Chávez!!!") serves as a major hub of the campaign; it has more than 156,000 members.

But Chávez is no FARC and it's no longer 2008. Anyone who wants to fight governments on Facebook or Twitter these days has to be prepared for them to fight back using the very same tools -- and often, more effectively than their detractors. Ditto Chávez: he's striking back with his own Facebook campaign built around anti-Americanism and aiming to capitalize on the growing Latin American discontent over the American bases that would soon be coming to Colombia.

Chávez's campaign -- which he says would be based around the "Yankee Go Home" themes -- was inspired by his numerous supporters begging him to allow them to protest too. Eva Golinger, a pro-government lawyer, is already urging Chávez's supporters to rally behind his own Facebook campaign called "ON THE PATH TO PEACE ... LATIN AMERICA TERRITORY FREE OF US MILITARY BASES, A ZONE OF PEACE".
Read more here.
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