In Colombia, An Unmistakable Green Trend
by Charles Lemos, Tue May 04, 2010 at 03:32:20 PM EDT
Polling Continues To Show a Green Surge
With Colombia's presidential now less than four weeks away, the Green party candidate Antanas Mockus continues to surge ahead of Juan Manuel Santos, the candidate of the pro-Uribe National Union party better known as el Partido de la U. In the latest poll released on Friday by Datexco showed Mockus now with a 12 point advantage, 39 percent to 27 percent, over Santos.
Still, these results point to a second round run-off three weeks later on June 20th. All polling over the past ten days has been consistently giving Mockus a clear advantage in the second round. There are, however, some caveats to keep mind. Polling in Colombia tends to overemphasize urban areas at the expense of rural areas where the Greens have less of presence and where vote-buying and other electoral irregularities are commonplace. Perhaps some ten percent of the Colombian electorate sells their votes.
However somewhat counteracting this is the tremendous support that Antanas Mockus and the Greens have among members of the Colombian diaspora. While the period for Colombians living abroad to register had expired in December, a class-action lawsuit is seeking to reopen the registration period. It is expected that this will add another 500,000 Colombians to the voting rolls, or doubling the number currently registered.
The last caveat is that no one really knows how many Colombians will turn out to vote. Colombia is a country where the abstention rate is historically high, generally only about half of eligible voters turn out to vote. Of the 29.8 million Colombians eligible to vote, only about 15 to 16 million were expected to vote but electoral officials are bracing now for a slightly higher tally. Perhaps 18 to 20 million may now turn out to vote. Of note, Colombian election officials have estimated that one-third of all registered voters are under 30 years of age.
There's little doubt that the Mockus candidacy has caught a spark but one of the more interesting aspects of the campaign is the unbelievable amount of campaign materials being produced by volunteers. As I noted earlier, the Mockus campaign felt no need to retain an ad agency given the quality of the print ads being created. Most noteworthy is a Facebook group called Creativos Con Antanas Mockus or Creatives with Antanas Mockus. Their work is not only vast but unbelievably high quality with effective messaging. The video below shows off some of their work.
While the above highlights the print ads being produced, here's a short campaign spot, again created by a volunteer:
How important is Facebook to the Mockus campaign? In a word, indespensible. The entire campaign is being run on the site. It's become the gathering point for a half million Colombians to exchange information and plan events. I pulled this comment from one of the users as it testifies to what's going on:
William Delgado: Nadie imaginaria que la sociedad y la economia digital aplastarian la organización politiquera convencional !!!!! Gracias Facebook!!!!!
It translates as: "No one could have imagined that society and the digital economy could have flatten conventional political organization. Thank you Facebook!" Mr. Delgado's point is well taken, Facebook has allowed half a million Colombians to connect and run an intense grass roots campaign. Here's a Flash Mob, again organized on Facebook, held this past Sunday in Bogotá:
Santos Reshuffles Campaign and Goes Negative
On Monday, Juan Manual Santos reshuffled his campaign staff most notably hiring the Venezuelan campaign strategist Juan José Rendón, the Karl Rove of Latin America, who specializes in negative attacks ads. Rendón who was worked previously on campaigns for right-wing candidates in México, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and most recently in Honduras is a controversial figure. He admits to having few boundaries having once boasted that "if it's legal then I have no scruples." The hiring, however, was not without consequences for the Santos campaign as it led to three officials to resign in protest.
Hired yesterday, Rendón has been quick to release new ads attempting to tie Mockus to Hugo Chávez, a hugely unpopular figure in Colombia. Rendón has set up a website Colombia Digna and released a number of videos including the one below.
If anything this proves that the right wing whether in the United States or in Latin America are birds of a feather. When you run out of ideas, all you have left is fear-mongering.