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20 Dec

#DebateEnRedes: In parallel with the Senate, the “economic emergency law” is being discussed on Twitter

Por Ariel Riera, Celeste Gómez Wagner and Mariela García

Updated 23 de January, 2020 at 10:59 am

If you have only a few seconds, read these lines:

  • 938,500 tweets were shared about the topics of the bill all over the country: the tax increase to the agro-export sector was the most discussed topic on Twitter.
  • The account of the deputy of the FIT-Unidad Nicolás del Caño mobilized most of the debate on Twitter.
  • The interacting users were organized into four communities: one around Del Caño; another identified with Juntos por el Cambio (Together for a Change – JxC); another linked to the government; and another one located in the center, next to accounts like Infobae or TN.

Last Wednesday, the National Executive Power (PEN) sent a bill to the Congress called “Social Support and Productive Reactivation Law”, which includes a package of economic measures, such as the suspension of pension mobility, a tax of 30% on shopping and expenses in dollars, and tax increase, among others.

During the extraordinary sessions called by the president Alberto Fernández, the bill was discussed in committees and passed to the Chamber of Deputies last Thursday. After 15 hours of debate, it received 134 votes in favor and 110 votes against minutes before 6:30 PM on Friday. On the same day, the bill went to the Senate for voting and final approval.

The scope of the bill motivated a debate on social networks. Chequeado analyzed what was discussed on Twitter about this subject between Thursday, December 12, at 8:00 AM, when the call for extraordinary sessions was published in the Official Gazette, and Friday, December 20, at 12:00 PM, when the Senate debated the law. A total of 938,500 tweets were shared about this topic, with a peak on December at 10:00 AM, when the debate started in the plenary.

Interactions about the Social Support and Productive Reactivation Law

Graph elaborated based on data obtained via Trendsmap of interactions on Twitter between Thursday, December 12, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. and Friday, December 20, 2019 at 12:00 p.m.

Among the most used hashtags, “#18DTodosAlCongreso” (“December 18, everybody to the Congress”) stood out; it was used in 18% of tweets. It was promoted by Juntos por el Cambio to mobilize the Congress against the law (see here, for example). Other hashtags followed this one: “#18DCacerolazoNacional” (December 18, national casserole protest”), with 7.4%, a planned action as part of mobilization; “#NoALaEmergenciaEconomica” (“Against the economic emergency”), with 6.2%, and “#NoALosSuperpoderes” (“Against the superpowers”), with 5.8%.

Among the 10 top-ranked hashtags, those in favor of the law were in 7th and 8th place, namely “#ArreglandoLoQueRompioMacri” (“Fixing what Macri broke”), with 3.6%, and “#LeySolidariaParaElPuebloYa” (“Solidarity Law for the people now”), with 2.9%.

The most shared message was posted by the congressman Nicolás del Caño, former presidential candidate for FIT-Unidad. He criticized the law especially because of the changes to pensions: “Congressmen who charge 180 thousand pesos will vote a law to adjust the pension of all retired people, which is not higher than 19 thousand pesos.” He was also ironic about the name of the law and stated: “They are ‘supportive’ with the money of those who have worked their whole life!!” It was retweed 23 thousand times and received 88,900 likes.

In fact, Del Caño’s account mobilized most of the discussion about the subject, even over different communities on Twitter. On one hand, he received replies and mentions (shares with comments) using the hashtag “#19DTodosAlCongreso”, promoted by Juntos por el Cambio. For example, the scientist of Conicet close to Cambiemos (Let’s change) Sandra Pitta tweeted: “It’s so much despair that we’re retweeting [Gabriel] Solano and Del Caño!”. On the other hand, he was criticized by users connected to the government, because, in an interview to channel TN, he said they would not provide quorum, and later he clarified on Twitter that they would provide it for deputies to assume their office.

The analysis of the discussion indicates four relevant communities about this topic. Added to the focus around Del Caño’s tweets, there was a community identified as JxC – where the congressmen Mario Negri (UCR) and Waldo Wolff (Cambiemos) stood out next to accounts such as “Coya” ou “La Belgrana” –, and a separate community with people from officialism, such as the congressman of Buenos Aires Leandro Santoro of Unidad Ciudadana and Alberto Fernández, or journalists and communication vehicles near them, like Juan Amorín and El Destape.

In the center, there were users interacting with TN’s and Infobae’s accounts or liberal figures, like the economists Roberto Cachanosky, José Luis Espert, or Javier Milei.

On the other hand, the most replied tweet was posted by the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Sergio Massa. He announced the sanction of the bill and received 400 comments, many of them were criticism. Massa was also one of the three most active users on Twitter in the period analyzed (according to the number of replies, retweets, and mentions). Wolff and Negri were at the top of the ranking.

As usual, the debate included several topics, which can be analyzed separately.

Number of tweets per thematic axis of the law

Graph elaborated based on data obtained via Trendsmap of some topics included in the Economic Emergency Law (discussed in this note). The period of analysis includes tweets shared in Argentina from December 12, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. to December 20, 2019 at 12:00 p.m.

TAX INCREASE

The tax increase targeted to the agro-export sector was the most debated topic approached in the bill on Twitter. Between December 12 at 8:00 AM and December 20 at 12:00 PM, 360 thousand messages were published in Argentina.

Almost 12% of tweets included the hashtag #retenciones (“tax increase”), followed by #18DCacerolazoNacional (“December 18, national cacerolazo”, with 2.7%), #18DTodosAlCongresso (“December 18, everybody to the Congress”, with 1.8%), #solidaridad (“solidarity”, with 1.7%), #VolvieronPeores (“they came back worse”, with 1.5%) and #YoNoSoyElCampo (“I’m not the field”, with 1.5%).

The most replied message was posted by @fulanos3, who proposed “presenting the taxes with sentences that were used by members of Cambiemos every time they kicked our ass. I start: ‘They made you believe that you could live without taxes’”. This sentence parodies what the economist Javier González Fraga said in 2016 about the Kirchnerian management: “They made middle-class employees believe that they could buy plasma TVs and travel abroad.”

The agricultural sector criticized the measure, because of its impact on production and the lack of dialog. The president used his Twitter account to highlight several modifications in the bill, and thus “improve the law”, in a series of posts, in which the first message alone had more than 18 thousand likes and almost 4 thousand retweets. About this particular issue, he highlighted the incorporation of “an article that provides for the Executive Power to establish mechanisms to compensate for the effects of specific export rights to small farmers and cooperatives.”

The bill that passed to the Senate determined a tax reduction on oil and mining.

“SUPERPOWERS”

Article 85 of the bill, which was finally revoked, allowed the Executive “to redesign the organization of Public Administration.” It was criticized for giving “superpowers” to the Executive, and it was one of the reasons for the absence of the block of deputies Juntos por el Cambio in the debate in the Congress. This topic prompted 156,500 tweets between December 12 at 8:00 AM and December 20 at 12:00 PM.

The hashtag #NoALosSuperpoderes (“Against the superpowers”) was present in 38.3% of the messages. Due to the negative connotation of the word, the four most retweeted messages were posted by congressmen of the opposition who expressed themselves on the social network against article 85: Luis Petri, Negri, Wolff and Paula Oliveto.

Around this topic, officialism climbed up to the third and fourth positions in the ranking of most replied topics: Jujuy’s governor, Gerardo Morales, and Negri were followed by the national deputy of Frente de Todos Leopoldo Moreau and the legislator of Buenos Aires for the same party, Leandro Santoro. Both coincided in criticizing Cambiemos for stating they would not make quorum to open the congress’ session.

DOLLAR

The surcharge of 30% on the dollar for accumulation or foreign expenses generated 135,400 tweets from December 12 at 8:00 AM to December 20 at 12:00 PM. The hashtag #DolarTurista (“tourism dollar”) was the most used (4.6%), and the five most repeated terms were “dollar” (58%), “dollars” (31%), “tourism” (23%), “tax” (17%) and “foreign” (12%).

Diego Poggi, journalist of the news channel Todo Noticias (TN) was the author of the message that received more responses in the period analyzed by Chequeado. On December 14, he said: “You work the whole year, it costs you an arm and a leg to buy a ticket flight and go on vacation, then the tax on tourism and shopping abroad returns. It’s always a struggle for those who work every day.” In this case, most of replies were against his opinion (see here and here).

A tweet by Ofelia Fernández, legislator of Buenos Aires for Frente de Todos, was the second mots replied post. On December 15, she said: “The truth is that, with 1 of every 2 children starving, coming out to cry for the fields or for those who can spend dollars out there seems to me a wicked thing to do in a crisis. I was grown up listening that I should prepare myself for an increasingly competitive world, I prefer an increasingly supportive world.” As in the case of Poggi, she was more criticized (see here and here) than supported for her opinion (see here).

Another modification in the bill was related to the so called “tourism dollar.” The operations, liquidations, and payments made before the date of entry into force of the law were excluded from the tax.

PENSIONS

From December 12 at 8:00 a.m. to December 20 at 12:00 p.m., 91,600 messages were published on Twitter in the country about this topic. 40% of tweets included the hashtag #18 DPorLosJubilados (“December 18 for the retired people”), followed by #18DTodosAlCongreso (“December 18, everybody to the Congress”), with 26.2%. The hashtag #PierdenLosAbuelos (“the gransparents lose”) was in the third place, with 24.5%.

The most repeated words in the messages related to this topic were “pensions” (26%), “congress” (24%), “retired people” (22%), “inflation” (17%); “decree” and “mobility” (14%).

A message by the former Minister of National Security Patricia Bullrich was the most replied in the period analyzed. She pointed out the powers that the president would have, including the upgrade of pensions, and added: “They’ve changed the Republic to a Monarchy!”.

The bill approved by the Chamber of Deputies accepted the exclusion of primary school teachers, high school and university teachers, and scientists from pension plans provided for in the original document. In addition, those who receive special pension benefits, such as former presidents and vice-presidents, judges of the Supreme Court and other judicial officers were excluded of the suspension.

* The Digital Democracy Room is a project of FGV DAPP in Brazil in partnership with Chequeado, Linterna Verde and Ojo Público. It’s goal is to monitor and analyze the digital conversations regarding the electoral context.

The analysis is available the website of Chequeado here.