24 May

Fico, the promise of change in Colombian politics, was not able to surpass Petro’s engagement on Twitter

Updated 20 de July, 2023 at 8:50 pm

  • Despite the intense campaign on Twitter for the election of Federico Gutiérrez, the group supporting Gustavo Petro managed to attract a larger number of profiles and interactions on the platform ‒ more than half of the engagement;
  • The expectation of victory and accusations of bot use marked the debate about Gustavo Petro; Fico Gutiérrez’s campaign focused on conveying a patriotic message and promoting debates about poverty and opportunities for young people;
  • The possibility of electing the first black vice president was a highlight for the Brazilian public; among Venezuelans, there was a predominance of links criticizing Petro.

The presidential elections in Colombia – with the first round scheduled for next Sunday (29) – have drawn attentions on social networks in recent weeks. Between May 10 and 23, approximately 7.39 million posts in Spanish about the election were identified on Twitter, according to a survey by the Department of Public Policy Analysis at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP). The center of this debate was the Colombian capital, Bogotá, which accounted 2.26 million (about 36%) of the tweets made during the period; in second place came Medellín, capital of the province of Antioquia, with 886,400 tweets (12%).

Evolution of the debate in Spanish on Twitter about the Colombian elections
Period: May 10 to 23, 2022

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

The moment of highest mobilization around the Colombian elections on the platform happened on May 22, with 773,300 posts, when campaigns supporting Federico Gutierrez intensified with the promise of political change (or “cambio”) in the country. Of the five hashtags used over the period, three are in support of the Creemos candidate: #ficopresidente, in 144.2 thousand tweets; #federicoescolombia, in 98,200 tweets; and #federicoimparable, in 84,600 tweets. The first and fifth indexers, #elcambioenprimera and #petropresidente, which campaign against Fico’s main competitor, Gustavo Petro, appear in 184,800 and 84,700 posts, respectively.

Regions concentrating the largest part of the debate in Spanish on Twitter about the Colombian elections
Period: May 10 to 23, 2022

Source: Twitter

General debate

Map of interactions in the debate in Spanish on Twitter about the Colombian elections
Period: May 10 to 23, 2022

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Red – 44.43% of profiles | 51.67% of interactions
Group formed around the profile of candidate Gustavo Petro (petrogustavo), highlighting the possibility of his election in the first round. Some posts claimed that bots were being used to confuse the Colombian electorate by sharing polls on social networks in which Petro allegedly had a lower percentage of votes than Rodolfo Hernández and Federico Gutiérrez.

Blue – 31.07% of profiles | 40.66% of interactions
Group driven by the profile of candidate Fico Gutiérrez (@FicoGutierrez) and his supporters, propagating the alleged support of the people of Colombia for the right-wing candidate by posting images and videos of gatherings of enthusiasts on the platform. The priorities claimed by the candidate were also highlighted, such as subsidies for those in need and reduction of taxes on energy and education for young people, while defending and propagating values such as patriotism, faith and the figure of a representative that is close to the Colombian people.

Yellow – 8.28% of profiles | 4.97% of interactions
Group led by the profiles of candidates Sergio Fajardo and Rodolfo Hernandez (@sergio_fajardo and @ingrodolfohdez), criticizing the positions of Fico Gutiérrez and, more emphatically, Gustavo Petro, and claiming that it is urgent to reduce inequalities and bring peace and prosperity to the Colombian people. Hernandez’s posts show more emphatic statements on his Twitter account, where he spoke out against the left-wing candidate and stated that he represents the “vaccine against Petro” and the “real change” that Colombia wants.

Lilac – 5.24% of profiles | 1.11% of interactions
Group composed of profiles from communication channels, journalists and common users, who used videos to report that employers are using their social position and power to coerce employees to vote for Fico Gutiérrez. In addition, there were posts using the term “democracy” inside quotation marks, implying that Colombian democracy is under some form of threat.

Major tweets from each community in the debate in Spanish on Twitter about the Colombian elections
Period: May 10 to 23, 2022

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP


Interactions in links about the Colombian presidential election in Latin America countries
Period: May 10 to 23, 2022

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Among the Latin American countries with the highest number of interactions in Facebook links about the elections in Colombia, Venezuela had the highest volume, with 11,363 interactions between May 10 and 23. It was followed by Ecuador, with 11,203 interactions, and then by Brazil, with 9,475 interactions. Argentina and Mexico also stood out, with 4,852 and 1,703 interactions, respectively.

Top 5 links with the most interactions per country
Period: May 10 to 23, 2022

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

In Brazil, the links with the highest volume of interactions on Facebook highlighted the possibility of a left-wing candidacy winning the elections for the first time in the country and mentioned the biography of Gustavo Petro’s vice candidate, Francia Márquez. The links mentioned the unprecedented lead in the polls by a left-wing candidacy, highlighting Petro’s statements and threats that the candidate has suffered. Content related to the vice-presidential candidate also had a high volume of interactions, highlighting Márquez’s background in environmental issues and the possibility of her becoming the first black woman to be the vice president of Colombia.

The five links with the highest volume of interactions in Ecuador came from the Venezuelan state television network, Telesur. The contents mentioned Gustavo Petro’s favoritism in opinion polls, the violence faced by Petro and his vice-presidential candidate, Francia Márquez, and the claim made by Márquez that the US could be trying to interfere in the elections. 

In Mexico, a left-wing Latin American portal, Resumen Latinoamericano, talked about Gustavo Petro’s leadership in the polls and the threats that the candidate has faced. A column published on the Mexican portal El Financiero about Petro’s possible victory and the mistakes of the Colombian economic elite also had a high number of interactions. The Mexican Aristegui Noticias circulated the announcement of Ingrid Betancourt’s withdrawal from the election, while the portal López-Dóriga Digital mentioned Petro’s claims, stating that the current president could interfere in the elections. A video of Petro’s vice-presidential candidate, Francia Márquez, talking about inequality and violence in Colombia also had a high volume of interactions in the country. 

The links with the highest amount of interactions in Venezuela associated the candidate Gustavo Petro with totalitarianism and electoral crimes, claiming that he can be a risk for Latin America. The Venezuelan portal La Patilla mentioned the statement made by Colombian Senator Carlos Felipe Mejía on the possibility of Petro establishing a totalitarian regime worse than Cuba and Venezuela, and a link to statements by Petro comparing the current president of Colombia, Iván Duque, to the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Panam Post, a liberal portal based in Miami, highlighted the suspension of the mayor of Medellín for interfering in the elections, the role of the communication strategist Amauri Chamorro in Petro’s campaign, and the statements made by the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who is concerned about the possibility of the left-wing winning the Colombian and Brazilian elections.