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Colombia: Presidential Candidates Answered Questions Asked on Youtube

Colombian political website La Silla Vacía [es] (The Empty Chair) with the support of TV news channel NTN24 organized a presidential debate where candidates answered questions people submitted through online video platforms, emulating the CNN YouTube debate that some say [es] put Obama in the White House.

Juanita León, Editor and Director of The Empty Chair published a behind the scenes post [es] explaining why they decided to do the debate with a television counterpart, how they selected the video questions, what made them decide on a 10 second limit for answers and what happened during the extra half an hour that was tacked on to the debate at the last minute, where candidates were forced to answer questions for which they hadn't had the chance to prepare. She writes about that last point:

La capacidad de reacción de los candidatos fue impresionante, y también su buena actitud. Someterlos a responder en directo, en televisión, preguntas tan complejas a la velocidad del rayo fue un irrespeto con ellos. Sobre todo teniendo en cuenta lo mucho que está en juego a 15 días de las elecciones. Y ellos, trataron de hacer lo mejor que pudieron. En realidad, es muy bueno para Colombia tener la oportunidad de escoger entre candidatos tan buenos y tan variados.

The candidates responsiveness was impressive, as was their good attitude. Submitting them to answering live, on television, questions so complex at the speed of light was disrespectful to them. More so when taking into account everything that's in stake 15 days to election. And they, they did the best they could. In fact, it is quite good for Colombia to have the opportunity to decide between so many good and varied candidates.

In order to guarantee that the debate would include questions from all walks of life, the readers of La Silla Vacía send in dozens of questions,  NTN24 also provided many questions and Jurgen Kaiser, the person who originally proposed the idea of the YouTube debate went out with his camera to interview people who don't usually have internet access.

In the Empty Chair's website, they have published a review on the best and worst moments of their debate [es], including the 10 second limit and the mess at the end of the debate. They also refer to a video in one of the categories;  tagging it  as “The Weird” they single out the question sent in by Adriana Baen y Juliana Castro [es], where a marionette in a falsetto voice asks in rhyme about child labor.

Dos usuarias, Adriana Baen y Juliana Castro, enviaron un vídeo donde en cambio de salir preguntando, disfrazaron a una muñeca de vendedora ambulante. Con una voz fingida de niña la muñeca preguntó,  “Bolita, bolita a doscientos, señor candidato cómo me podría ayudar. Yo quiero estudiar pero me toca trabajar”. Esto parecía una buena idea, pero como no funcionó la pantalla donde los candidatos veían la imagen, repitieron el video tres veces. La voz fingida y chillona de la niña molestó a los usuarios del set y del Twitter. Y los candidatos en su afán por responder en 10 segundos, para cumplir con la regla, no dieron ninguna solución concreta para el trabajo infantil. En fin, un desastre.

Two users, Adriana Baen and Juliana Castro, sent in a video where instead of appearing and asking the question, they dressed up a doll as a street vendor. With a squeaky child's voice the doll asked “Little ball, little ball for two hundred. Mr. Candidate how can you help me. I want to study but I have to work.” This seemed like a good idea, but because the screen where the candidates could see the image didn't work, the video was repeated three times. The squeaky falsetto child's voice annoyed people at the set and those following on Twitter. And the candidates, anxious to answer in 10 seconds to comply with the rules, couldn't give any concrete solutions to child labor. All in all, a disaster.

However, it seems that for people on microblogging site Twitter, the doll was the most memorable character from the debate. Tagged as #bolitabolita not much time had to pass before an “Instant Bolita” was born, where the rally cry for the absurd is just a button push away.

But not all was absurd. Some questions and plans reflected many of the viewers concerns. When a young woman asked the candidates [es] what could be done for University students who can't afford the cost of transportation to get to their classes, candidate Santos answered with an attractive and ambitious plan:

Cuando una de las ciudadanas que se había retirado de la universidad, pues no tenía recursos para el bus, le preguntó a Santos que podía hacer por ella el candidato de La U salió con una propuesta que no se le había oído. “Vamos a dar una beca crédito a todos los bachilleres que salen de la educación pública para que puedan financiar su educación superior y también financiar su mantenimiento durante los años de estudio. Crédito subsidiado a los estratos más bajos, cero interés real y ese crédito sólo será pagado cuando ese muchacho o muchacha tenga un ingreso estable. Eso saca de raíz entre 300 mil muchachos que todos los años van a engrosar las filas del desempleo”, fue la propuesta de Santos.

When one of the citizens who had dropped out of college because she couldn't afford transportation asked Santos what he as a candidate for the La U party could do for her, he came out with a proposal which hadn't been heard before. “We will give a credit loan to every high-school student that graduates from a public school so they can finance their higher education and also cover their sustenance during the years they spend studying. Subsidized credit for the lowest income brackets, zero real interest and this credit will only be paid back when this young man or woman has a stable income. This will remove the roughly 300 thousand youth who every year get added to the unemployment statistics”, was Santos reply.

You can view more of the Colombian Presidential Debate's questions and answers on the Empty Chair's blip.tv channel: La Silla Vacía.

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