21 Dec

Political whirlwind puts Bolivia in the spotlight of the debate in Spanish on Twitter

In two weeks, the debate about the country’s institutional crisis accumulated 23.2 million mentions; the peak of discussion on Twitter happened on Sunday night

Updated 7 de February, 2020 at 4:36 pm

Since November 7, Bolivia has quickly left its peripheral role in the political debate on the social networks in Latin America partly because of the protests in Chile and the general elections in Argentina , turning into an international protagonist due to the serious institutional situation it is going through. The call for new elections by then president Evo Morales and, soon after, Evos resignation and exile in Mexico, expanded the interest in the country, with a polarized discussion on Twitter which, until this Tuesday, November 21 at midday (Brasilia time), accumulated 23.2 million posts in Spanish only in dozens of countries regarding the clash between the former president and his adversaries, including mentions to the self-proclaimed substitute, Jeanine Áñez.

Volume of mentions to the debate about Bolivia in Spanish and Portuguese
Period analyzed: November 7 at midnight until November 21 at midday

There have been protests both for and against Morales and the new elections in the country since October, but the political engagement about Bolivia abruptly intensified on the social networks on Saturday (9) in the end of the night. On Sunday (10) in the morning, the OAS (Organization of American States) publicly declared their support for the new general elections, and within a few hours, with the escalation of the protests throughout the country, Evo was forced to resign, lacking the support from the police and the military forces. 

The peak of mentions on Twitter happened between Sunday at 10 p.m. and Monday (11) at midnight, with 6.4 thousand new posts per minute, and the impact of the discussion in the virtual sphere has remained: on Sunday, there were more than 4.7 million tweets in Spanish in the entire world about Bolivia, and 3.3 million on Monday.  Ever since then, there have been at least 1 million new tweets every day regarding the political situation.

External debate surpasses internal discussions in Bolivia

With a small population and low regular use of the internet and of social networks compared to their neighbors in Latin America, Bolivia represents only 5.4% of the volume of mentions about its own political situation which corresponds to 1.25 million tweets (still a very high volume). The biggest participant in the discussion is Argentina (20.5%, or 4.8 million), whose own recent electoral process already kept the countrys activity on Twitter significantly high. The president-elect, Alberto Fernández, publicly declared his support for Morales who also has the digital support of Nicolás Maduro fromVenezuela, the second country with the biggest presence in the debate about Bolivia: 18.9% (4.39 million).

Other Spanish-speaking countries with relevant participation on Twitter include Mexico who granted Evo political asylum with 16.8% of the tweets identified (3.9 million posts); Colombia, with a slightly higher percentage than Bolivia itself (6.3%); and Spain (with 5.6%, or 1.3 million publications. Notably, the word coupcame in 3rd place in terms of volume of mentions and is present in 20% of the tweets in any country.

Facebook: 129.8 thousand links shared and 20.5 million interactions

Internationally, the impact on Facebook was spread over dozens of countries, with 129.8 thousand links about the political situation in Bolivia shared in at least six languages links to websites and portals in Spanish make up most of the volume of engagement, especially from communication vehicles in Mexico. Together, the 280 links with the most repercussion on the social network obtained 20.5 million interactions (including reactions, comments and shares). The most relevant link so far came from a general news website with no specific address, which publishes about Latin America and international politics and is not among the traditional vehicles of the local media in countries of the region: one of its articles, regarding the expulsion of Cubans and Chavistasfrom Bolivia, had 467,600 interactions.

In Brazil, 1.45 million mentions and 30% of references to a coup

The proportion of profiles in Portuguese in Brazil rejecting Evo Moraless resignation and attributing the presidential change to a coup is similar to that in the Spanish debate: 30% of the 1.45 million mentions identified in the country mentioned the word and the biggest influencer if the official profile of former president Lula. Mentions to election fraud in the country as spread by president Jair Bolsonaro appeared in 8% of the posts. In fact, most of the publications about Bolivia are concentrated in Brasilia, with 20% of the Brazilian posts located in the Federal District.

About the methodology

The analysis developed by FGV DAPP employs a linguistic methodology for identifying topics, actors and institutions using data from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram to monitor the public debate in the digital environment. The research uses primary (APIs) and secondary sources to obtain data from the platforms, always respecting the data access policies of each of them and the privacy of users. For more information, please access the FGV DAPP methodological reference book.

* 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.