Experts claim that Chávez's campaign does not prioritize social networks
Political scientist Niemer Evans points out that President Hugo Chávez's use of social networks in the electoral race will be important but not decisive as his team believes that political persuasion is best done "face to face" and "on the streets." His "captive audience" is not really there; Chávez's voters are in D and E levels
Even though Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's sector acknowledge the acceptance of social networks in the country and the growth of "their own kind" within them, specialists like political scientist Nicmer Evans warn that it would be "a gross error" to prioritize those spaces in the upcoming political campaign.
He does not believe, in the case of the official sector, that a campaign to prioritize networks over any other form of contact with people will be implemented; instead, there will be greater "diversification" of presence on the streets and in the media, which will ultimately include social networks.
"I am absolutely sure that we are not at a level where we can conduct our political campaign based on social networks, that is, using them exclusively or as the core of our efforts."
"On their own they are not enough in this process to generate any kind of effect upon the Venezuelan people; they can actually be used as a resource to resonate in other media such as television, radio and press and to generate discussion topics amongst organized sectors," he adds.
The main reason behind this logic, according to the expert, is that social networks do not have a significant impact on popular sectors. He points out that no prior analysis is needed to know that Chávez's followers belong to classes "that are not the high class and that have less access to social networks."
"Majority voting is centered on C, D and E classes, specially the last two are the ones without a strong presence in those platforms," he claims and adds that those spending more time on this media "do not even represent a third of the Venezuelan voting population."
In spite of the above, Evans believes that these scenarios do not prevent Chávez's team from "flirting with and trying to aim efforts at medium and high-class sectors," but he believes that the main focus of the campaign will not be devoted to those sectors because "it would be a fatal tactical and strategic approach that would hardly translate into votes."
He believes that "campaign 2.0" would not lead to more votes by simply using these tools because, in the end, persuading and convincing people about political postures "implies face-to-face contact."
Capriles gains more from using social networks
Evans sees a different approach for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, whose "target" would actually be found in social networks, and the opinions generated therein "offer less resistance" to his government plan.
He believes that @chavezcandanga has been a resource behind which there is a complex structure of power to generate solutions for people's concerns; nevertheless, "Capriles has more to win through social networks because the people using them are much more open to his proposal."
He clarifies that he is not denying the significant "increase" of Chávez supporters on social networks and that they have done so "increasingly and exponentially," but since there are less than 4 months to go before the elections, "it is evident that Capriles will have to center his attention toward strengthening the voter target associated with social networks."
An opinionated shift
According to this expert on politics, the way that messages have been handled on the web by President Hugo Chávez may change, "mainly Twitter messages that, until now, have been basically information about performance, and it would be possible for a more opinionated use to be given to generate impact upon public opinion and boost the campaign in general terms."
He believes that this would be done by taking into account that the president faces some restrictions in performing political rallies and, therefore, "will use this type of tool to generate opinions and make statements."
How could political rallies and events on the streets fit in if the president faces health limitations? The answer, according to Evans, is in the strategic use of government institutions and supporters.
He believes that the president and candidate is "pretty clear" on political campaigns conducted on the streets, involving rallies and making direct contact with people "even if he is not the one permanently active doing this, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela and allied organizations are generating these dynamics that cannot be replaced by social networks."
Translated by Félix Rojas Alva
José Vicente Rangel clearly said: "We are not conducting negotiations threatened with a gun in the head." He warned behind closed doors in the midst of the social upheaval occurred during the oil strike in 2002 and 2003. Dissenting Timoteo Zambrano answered back that no other option was available: "The thing is that otherwise, you do not negotiate."