From “Mexico is worse than Spain” to “PRI, don’t sell off”, that is the state of the digital debate about the energy reform
by Animal Político | México
Por Lidia Sánchez
Updated 4 de November, 2021 at 11:47 am
There were more than 600 thousand tweets in only two weeks discussing the energy reform proposed by the Mexican government
The energy reform proposed by the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador generated a digital debate with more than 600 thousand tweets in two weeks, with messages both for and against the initiative. The main argument used by the government is to strengthen the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and limit private participation in the Mexican energy sector.
The digital debate has focused on topics such as electricity payments by private companies, the pros and cons of renewable energy, the support of the opposition to approve the reform, and the Spanish experience with electricity fees, as revealed by the TrendsMap and Gephy tools in tweets related to the energy reform and its reach.
Of the more than 637,700 tweets registered in the debate about the topic, we identified 119 thousand messages supporting the report, most of which used only two hashtags: #LaReformaEléctricaVa and #ReformaEléctricaVa (the energy reform will pass). On the other hand, 212 thousand messages used 14 different hashtags in order to disqualify the initiative.
Among the protagonists in the conversation were accounts certified by the platform, but also fake accounts; some containing messages among the most retweeted and others helping amplify messages.
Among those opposing the reform and standing out in the conversation on Twitter are the panista Senator Xóchitl Gálvez; María Elena Pérez-Jaén Zermeño, ex-commissioner of the Institute for Access to Information of the (then) Federal District; and Paola Migoya, former PAN candidate for mayor of Puebla. There were also accounts created recently using false identification information.
Among the accounts supporting the reform, the highlights in the debate were the head of the Department of Energy, Rocío Nahle, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and its director Manuel Bartlett, as well as the political advisor Abraham Mendieta and the account @Navigations, owned by Pedro Miguel Arce Montoya, a collaborator for the newspaper La Jornada and one of the authors of the “Ethical Guide for the Transformation of Mexico”.
The media outlets @SinLinea_Mx and @elgatopolitico_ also published information supporting the López Obrador administration. In addition, one account stated it was owned by someone called Juan Castillo, although the account name was @UnidosPorLa4T.
Another highlight was an account named @patyper, who stated her name was Paty Perhaps, although its profile image belongs to a Turkish influencer called Merve Demirci. The original image can be seen on her Instagram account.
Hashtags for and against
To analyze the debate on the social networks, El Sabueso used the tools TrendsMap and Gephi in order to identify which messages expressed their positions in the conversation on Twitter regarding the energy reform of López Obrador between September 30 and October 14.
First, we carried out a search using the generic terms “CFE”, “luz” (light) and “eletricidade” (electricity) with the hashtags identified previously: #ReformaEléctrica and #ReformaEnergética, as well as their lower case and no accent variations.
We identified the main words and the hashtags used the most in the debate, which generated 637,700 tweets and 533,300 retweets.
Word cloud of the debate about the energy reform on Twitter
Hashtag cloud of the debate about the energy reform on Twitter
Based on this initial result, we divided the hashtags into generic expressions, those supporting and those against the reform, as shown in the following table.
Hashtag used in the debate about the energy reform on Twitter
(Generic | Supporting | Against)
Timeline of hashtags used regarding the energy reform
Afterwards, we carried out a new search with each of the hashtag groups identified, and the result was analyzed through the Gephi tool to distinguish which accounts and messages were protagonists in the debate in each community – the accounts related to each other –, identified through different colors.
One example is the chart below, where two communities were created based on the use of generic hashtags. The accounts that used the hashtags in messages supporting the energy reform are pink, and the accounts doing so in order to show opposition are blue.
Most retweeted accounts that used generic hashtags about the energy reform
Spain, private, Oxxo
As seen in the previous chart, the group of accounts using generic hashtags to show their support for the energy reform include the secretary of Energy, Rocío Nahle.
On October 1st, she published the most retweeted message in the analysis, in which she mentioned that the CFE could generate a minimum of 54% of the energy in the country, and made a reference to lithium, ensuring the its exploration will be “exclusively for the State”, a message repeated in the morning conference where the president ensured that he wants “to establish in the Constitution that lithium is the property of the Nation”.
Lithium, also called “petroleum of the future” or “white gold”, is a metal used to store energy that can be used, for instance, in mobile phone batteries to make them more durable.
Another one of the most retweeted messages posted by Nahle was published on October 8 to ensure that the energy reform does not plan to eliminate “solar panels in residences, buildings, water wells, rural centers, etc.”
The most retweeted message posted by Manuel Bartlett, director of the CFE, was a video in which he stated that “the goal of the private sector is to make money, and the goal of the State is to ensure cheap electricity”, an idea that the government has emphasized, although analysts and organizations have pointed out that the reform could end up increasing energy costs or subsidies.
On October 8, the account of the CFE published one of the most important messages within the debate about the energy reform, regarding the energy crisis in Spain.
Today, in Spain, the State wants to take control of the energy sector, but the legislation does not allow it and can’t stop the increases either. Without the #ReformaEléctrica, Mexico will follow this path, prioritizing profit with no regard for the population. – Mario Moraloes Vielmas, CFE
Like the Federal Electricity Commission, the account of @NortenaCatrina published a video to indicated what “they think about Iberdrola” in Spain.
As we say in this video, Iberdrola is a Spanish company that, together with four other companies (Endesa, Naturgy, EDP and Vesgo-Repsol), own 90% of the energy supply in the domestic sector.
In Mexico, Iberdrola is the second company, after the CFE, in terms of electric energy generation. However, the energy schemes in Spain and Mexico are different; in Spain, for instance, there isn’t a public body similar to the CFE, which distributes electricity but also competes as a generator.
Nevertheless, similar messages were published by the account @UnidosPorLa4T (1,2), while the accounts @chioreya (1), @patyper (1), and @elgatopolitico_ (1) posted memes about the comparison.
The account of Abraham Mendieta, a political advisor, was also one of the most retweeted in the debate. His messages focused on disqualifying Margarita Zavala, a panista congresswoman, former presidential candidate and wife of former president Felipe Calderón.
The following chart shows a community predominating over the rest, in pink. The size of each Twitter account name represents the amount of retweets received in some of its messages, and the lines indicate which other accounts these interactions came from.
The messages in these accounts used the following hashtags the most: #lareformaelectricava, #reformaelectricava, #lareformaeléctricava and #reformaeléctricava (the energy reform will pass).
Most retweeted accounts using hashtags about the energy reform
Despite repeating the comparison between the energy situation and Mexico and Spain, the accounts shown in the previous image also systematically used the words “foreign companies”, “private” and “private inversionists” to support the government’s idea of “strengthening the CFE”.
López Obrador’s initiative also proposes that the CFE own 54% of the mark, with 46% left for private companies, as well as the extinction of the National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE).
The account @Navegaciones, owned by Pedro Miguel Arce Montoya, published several messages regarding these topics (1, 2, 3).
The most retweeted publication by @SinLinea_Mx was a meme recreating the chart shown by the Mexican government during the morning conference of October 13, stating that companies such as Oxxo, Walmart and Bimbo pay as much as three times lower for electricity than “a Mexican household”. However, as explained in this analysis, this information is false.
The vote of the PRI and the T-MEC
Our survey of the accounts and messages that stood out in the debate against the reform through the 14 hashtags mentioned previously found a predominance of those disqualifying the PRI and its potential vote about López Obrador’s energy reform.
Most retweeted accounts using hashtags against the energy reform
One of those messages was posted by Paola Migoya, former panista candidate for mayor of Puebla. It was published on October 4 and stated that the PRI will quickly vote in favor of the initiative.
Friends tell me that several @PRI_Nacional representatives are pressuring them to vote quickly tomorrow. Mexico’s future is at stake.
Personal appointment of all @Mx_Diputados and #PRInoTeVendas
Mexico’s interests must come first.
María Elena Pérez-Jaén Zermeño, former commissioner of the Institute for Access to Information of the (then) Federal District, also published a tweet in which she expresses “suspicions” about the relationship between Morena and the PRI.
Fernando Belaunzarán, former congressman for the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and former PAN candidate for mayor of Iztapalapa, published a message on October 3 that was also one of the most retweeted, indicating that, if the PRI vote for López Obrador’s energy reform, it would be “betraying” those who voted for the party.
The mandate given by the citizens who voted for the opposition is clear:
Stop the Emperor’s follies.
If the PRI votes for the #LeyApagon proposed by @lopezobrador_, it will be a betrayal of its constituents.
And it would be an attack against the country and its development.
The warning has been given.
On October 5, López Obrador said during the morning conference that, with the vote of the energy reform, the PRI has “an opportunity to define (whether) it will continue with salinism as a policy or return to the ways of president (Lazaro) Cardenas”.
In response, Alejandro Moreno, the national president of the PRI, said that no one is putting pressure on the party, and that he “will make the best decision and will be on the side of responsibility and building a better country.”
On the other hand, one of the accounts that remain in the conversation against López Obrador’s energy reform is that of Victor Ramirez, an energy sector analyst (@vicfc7). In one of his messages, he highlighted that López Obrador’s energy reform violates the free trade agreement called T-MEC, which the country has established with the United States and Canada.
If the #ReformaApagon is approved, Mexico would in fact be rejecting the TMEC, other trade agreements it has, and the Paris Agreement.
Despite the president’s insistence on the contrary, the Mexican Business Association in the United States and several of the country’s representatives, as well as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, opposed the reform.
Another account that stood out in the analysis was Xochitl Gálvez. Among his messages that have become popular in conversations on Twitter are three related to renewable and clean energy.
The #ReformaBerlett makes the @CFEmx responsible for the energy transition.
Rocío Nahle announced that she would favor the supply of this energy with oil and gas, to the detriment of clean energy. That is, more pollution.
They have forgotten Mexico’s commitment against #ClimateChange.
If approved, the #ReformaBarlett would generate an increase in public debt. We run the risk of an electrical short circuit.
We are not going to allow Mexico to turn off the switch.
* The Digital Democracy Room is a project of FGV DAPP in Brazil in partnership with Animal Político, Bolivia Verifica, Chequeado, Confidencial, Espacio Público, 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 Animal Político here.