08 Nov

With the fall of the Minister of Defense, Uribe supporters turn to Facebook for solace

In the midst the storm caused on Twitter by the resignation of the minister Botero, Linterna Verde analyzed the narratives of militant Uribe supporters in Facebook groups. That is how they lick their wounds and cling to their discourse

Por Carlos Cortés and Pablo Espinosa

Updated 28 de January, 2020 at 3:58 pm

The Minister of Defense, Guillermo Botero, resigned last Wednesday after a debate over a motion of censorship in the Congress and strong pressure on the social networks. Between November 5 and 7, the conversations on Twitter were dominated by voices which at first demanded his resignation, then celebrated when he left.

Mentions on Twitter about “Guillermo Botero” or “Minister Botero”. Source: Sysomos

Hashtags with criticism dominated the conversation in the tweets about Botero: #renuncieministrobotero (resign minister Botero) with 20.3% of the tweets; #elministrodedefensadebe (the minister of defense must) with 7.8%; #mocióndecensura (motion of censorship) with 6%, and #lequedógrande (it got big) with 5.2%.

Tweet ¹: Idiots, I present to you the new Minister of Defense: General Luis Fernando Navarro, the Commander of the Military Forces who you hate so much. Repeat with me, fools: “Be careful what you wish for”.

Tweet ¹: The President Iván Dique has nominated General Luís Fernando Navarro as the new Minister of Defense, the current Commander of the @FuerzasMilCol, after accepting the resignation of the @mindefensa Guilhermo Botero

Tweet with the most RT in favor of the government actions

Tweet: Conclusion of the debate today against the Minister Botero: 7 children were killed in a bombing and now they want us to believe that those children were “good deaths”. After this confession, not only should Minister Botero resign, but the military circle as well.

Tweet with the most RT against the government actions

Botero’s resignation happened in a very complex moment for the government: the social movements are ascending, the leadership of president Iván Duque is in check (with the famous #DeQuéMeHablasViejo – what are you talking about, man?), and the regional elections were a hit of negative opinion for the Democratic Center. In this context, and in the midst of an extremely adverse conversation on Twitter, the militant Uribe supporters sought refuge on Facebook to lick their wounds.

After an analysis of the public spaces on Facebook (fan pages and public profiles) with content related to “Guillermo Botero”, “Minister Botero” and “Minister of Defense”, we identified 500 entries about the topic with more than 400 thousand interactions in two days.

Activity on Facebook around the debate about the motion of censorship and Botero’s resignation. Source: BuzzSumo

Most of the activity around this topic was focused on the profiles and publications of the communication vehicles, local radio stations or television channels. However, the activity stands out in the pages of the Uribe supporting public. By filtering public content with more than 500 interactions in the past three days (likes, shares and comments), we found publications of two members of parliament from the Democratic Center – the senator Paola Holguín (77 thousand followers) and the deputy Gabriel Vallejo Chujfi (10 thousand) – and a group of Uribist supporters called ‘Fuerza Democrática Colombia’ (Democratic Force Colombia) (publication 1, publication 2) (130 thousand). These four publications add up to 3,300 shares and 610 comments.

When analyzing this content, we found two main narratives with which Uribe supporters are trying to respond to the political conjuncture:

Narrative 1: Complete support for the Military and dirty water for the FARC

After analyzing the word frequency in these 610 messages, we found that, after the terms associated with the minister and with the minors assassinated in the bombing, the Military and the guerrilla are the most mentioned. These are messages mostly supporting the Military and trying to emphasize the responsibility of the armed groups in illegally recruiting children.

Most used keywords | Frequency
Sinónimos de niños/menores
Sinónimos ministro
Sinónimo Fuerzas Armadas
Sinónimo Presidente/Gobierno
Sinónimo Roy Barreras
“izquierda”
“nuestros”

Many of the publications try to justify the military operation. These approaches echo the defense of the now former minister Botero, who wanted to avoid questions about having concealed the results of the bombing to focus on the issue of the illegal recruiting of minors.

When the army gets to a FARC or ELN (the National Liberation Army) encampment, they will first have to ask: Excuse me sirs, have you been using children as shields or as sexual objects? We just need to know whether we need to fight you or let you shoot us… Sorry to interrupt your great work, gentlemen.

A text in “meme” format justifying the military actions regarding the bombing. Source: Facebook

Some voices even demanded an even more intense military approach. An approach that is actually opposed to the recent reports of extrajudicial executions and irregularities in the security forces.

Comment 1: Mr. President name a Minister of Defense from the Military and that’s it, very simple.

Source: Facebook / @Fuerzademocraticacolombiana

Comment 2: We, members and former members of the military, are not very happy with this clown for this ministry, we need people that can make strong and wise decisions to match the modus operandi of all outlaw groups … this minister thinks he’s taking snacks to Comfenalco…

Source: Facebook / @Fuerzademocraticacolombiana

Comment 3: But we expect a stronger support for the military, as it should be. The minister of defense must be from the military.

Source: Facebook / @paolaholguinm

Narrative 2: The left wing and Roy Barreras are to blame.

With his success in the debate, Roy Barreras has been defined as the new enemy of the Uribe supporters. The senator from the La U (the Social Party of National Unity) is associated with the left wing by many users. Other users believe he joined the club of the archenemies of this political group, which alreadu had Gustavo Petro, Iván Cepeda and the Democratic Center

Comment 4: And the filthy leftists attack. Cepeda. Rois. Polo and some other rats wearing ties

Source: Facebook / @Fuerzademocraticacolombiana

Comment 5: Roy Barreras, an enemy of Colombia, looking for an easy time and eager to hide inside the government, debate against the guerrillas which went back to the mountains and are recruiting children, but don’t pretend you are surprised with the results of what you helped create for $$$$$, the peace you took from their hands

Source: Facebook / @Fuerzademocraticacolombiana

Comment 6: But when the guerrilla kills the innocent, nobody leaves their home to complain, except when they bomb this terrorist junk, why don’t you do the same when the guerrilla massacres Mr. Roy Barreras, I’ve never seen him defend the people from the atrocities that the guerrilla has committed.

Source: Facebook / @paolaholguinm

Comment 7: TELL ROY BARRERA TO GET A RIFLE AND DEFEND THE COMMUNITIES AND STOP ACCUSING THE MILITARY FORCES AND WHY DON’T YOU CONVICT THE TERRORIST WHO ARE IN THE CONGRESS BEING MURDERERS AND HOW MANY CHILDREN HAVE THEY RAPED AND MURDERED IF THEY DON’T FIGHT FOR THEM TO PAY FOR THAT SHUT UP ROY YOU’RE A LEFTIST AND YOU GOT UPSET BECAUSE THEY BOMBED YOUR ACCOMPLICES

Source: Facebook / @paolaholguinm

Many memes even associated the minister’s resignation with an “orchestrated action” by the left wing in order to discredit the government, a narrative that feeds on the discourse promoted by the Democratic Center.

Memes associated the resignation of Minister Botero to an “orchestrated action” by the left wing. Source: Facebook

Narrative 3: Uribe, the Minister of Defense

The idea of making Álvaro Uribe a part of the government is not new. When the 2018 presidential election was just beginning, there were already talks about him being included in the vice-presidential ticket and potentially the minister of defense. This last argument returned to the center of the narratives by Uribe supporters.

Comment 8: We support the MINISTER OF DEFENSE, DUQUE, THE DEMOCRATIC CENTER, URIBE NOT THE COMMUNISTS, SOCIALISTS, CASTRO AND CHAVES SUPPORTERS, POPULISTS AND THE LEFT WING.

Source: Facebook / @Fuerzademocraticacolombiana

In the past few days, the conversation even left these groups and became supposed news in the El Espectador. Although ColombiaCheck distorted it, the intention still haunts these groups. Uribe’s idea as Minister is a rescue for President Duque: the incarnate return of Democratic Security.

Comment 9: If it’s necessary… Dr Uribe for Minister of Defense

Source: Facebook / @paolaholguinm

Comment 10: #NOMBRENAURIBE (name Uribe)

Source: Facebook / @paolaholguinm

Narrative 4: The rearview mirror

More than one year after the change in government, the support for Uribe continues to dwell on the past. The present government and the fall of the Minister follow the implementation of peace – the peace of Santos.

Comment 11: Roy Barreras, an enemy of Colombia, looking for an easy time and eager to hide inside the government, debate against the guerrillas which went back to the mountains and are recruiting children, but don’t pretend you are surprised with the results of what you helped create for $$$$$, the peace you took from their hands

Source: Facebook / @Fuerzademocraticacolombiana

Comment 12: Nobody celebrates or supports anyone’s death. But those who profess false peace, the recruiters and kidnappers of these minors, who recruit them for the FARC to maintain the drug trafficking business, are more responsible. Therefore, the issue is the forced recruitment of minors by terrorist groups.

Source: Facebook / @Fuerzademocraticacolombiana

Comment 13: Consequences of a false peace….innocent children, but recruited and trained by the FACR… Trained to kill…..

Source: Facebook / @paolaholguinm

The conversations in these spaces of political debate are often seen away from the center of the debate (the Overton window of what is acceptable to discuss). Although this is a passionate an uncritical view – which many consider laughable –, it is not isolated nor disconnected. In this case, it returns to the discourse of the leaders of the Uribe movement and feeds it at the same time.

Maybe the clearest example of how the Uribe movement interprets and speaks to its followers was given by senator Álvaro Uribe when he rejected the demonstration called for November 21 (see video below). Uribe’s words join all these narratives and reinforce them in the public discussion.

Uribe’s discourse seems to be a defense of the government, but can also be interpreted as a form to give credit to the president. The issue is whether, in the midst of this complex political context, the Uribe movement can allow itself, as often happens in these Facebook groups, to have a conversation only with itself. This strategy was undoubtedly beneficial when acting as the opposition, but it does not seem equally useful to govern.

Tweet: Announcement by the Democratic enter about the strike called for November 21

* 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 Linterna Verde here.

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