Bolivia: Vice President Keeping Track of Netizens’ Insults

“I am always going online and I write down the name and surname of those insulting our president (Evo Morales),” said [es] Álvaro García Linera, Bolivia’s vice president, on October 20, 2012.

While members of the opposition considered this statement an attempt to restrict freedom of speech in the country, the Minister of Government, Carlos Romero, asserted [es] that social media is “regularly misused to attack the Government or misinform about its work”.

Netizens also reacted in different ways to the controversy. Twitter user Juan Carlos Quiroga (@jcrquiroga) [es] looked at the positive side of the vice president’s statement:

Bolivia's vice president Álvaro García Linera during a UNASUR meeting in February 2010. Photo by Presidencia de la República del Ecuador (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

@jcrquiroga: A mí me agradó que el Vice hable de las redes, porque por primera vez sabemos que le interesan las redes sociales. @joup1

@jcrquiroga: I am pleased that the vice president talked about social networks, because for the first time we know they are interested in social media. @joup1

Nevertheless, Mr. García Linera doesn't have an official page, profile or account on Facebook or Twitter, the two most popular social media platforms in Bolivia.

Others, like Mario Durán (@mrduranch) [es], a Twitter user based in El Alto, suggested that the government is taking the wrong approach:

@mrduranch: la idea azul (en referencia al partido de gobierno, MAS) para fiscalizar redes sociales permiten “cosas malas” … con esa logica deberiamos eliminar cuchillos de cocina #fb

@mrduranch: The blue idea (referring to the ruling party, MAS) to monitor social networks [because they] allow “bad things” … On that logic we should eliminate kitchen knives #fb

Other netizens are asking the government to pay attention to important issues and the needs of the Bolivian people. Fabiola Chambi (@fabiolachambi) [es] commented via her Twitter account:

@fabiolachamb: Que el Vice y sus “rastreadores” anoten tb las quejas y necesidades de los internautas. ¡Hay otros espacios donde el pueblo se manifiesta!

@fabiolachamb: The Vice president and his “trackers” should also write down the complaints and needs of Internet users. There are other places where the people manifest themselves!

The vice president's statement and citizens’ reactions – both online and offline – have brought back a debate about the control of social media in Bolivia.

On Gobernabilidad Democrática's Facebook page [es], a platform which aims to broaden the democratic exchange in the country, Miriam Romero Baldiviezo expressed [es] her support to set restrictions, particularly to deal with issues like pornography and crime, and to legislate on the use and access of the Internet. However, replying to Miriam Romero's comment, some activists consider such controls unfeasible due to a number of constraints; for instance, most people in Bolivia connect to the web via Internet cafes and other public spaces, where the same IP address is assigned to different users.


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