Last night, Twitter came of age in the Venezuelan public sphere.
For as long as we can remember, if the opposition wanted to get its message out, it went to Globovisión, the staunchly opposition all-news cable channel. The M.O. would usually go like this: opposition politician would spout off their message, Globovisión would transmit it live, no tough questions would be asked, and opposition activists would replicate the message. Voters did not have to think nor draw their own conclusions, because that’s what Globovisión was for.
However, after the station changed hands and, with it, its editorial line, opposition people were starting to feel a little orphaned. So, in light of this new communicational reality, last night Henrique Capriles took to Twitter to denounce the links between Globovisión’s new owners and the government. There were no press conferences, no microphones, and no reporters involved – just Henrique and his Twitter account.
This change in strategy promises to be mighty interesting.
Globovisión was sold las month. Rumours started circulating that its editorial line would change, becoming much more pro-government. Initially, not much happened, but in the last two days, things flipped. Long-time anti-Chávez broadcaster Kiko Bautista was fired, and a live speech by Henrique Capriles was “banned,” according to Capriles himself. Apparently, the station will no longer transmit Capriles’ speeches live.
What happened last night was remarkable. Capriles began tweeting that he was being banned from Globovisión, and suggested there were links between Globovisión’s new owner, Raúl Gorrín, and two unknown figures in the government: former Treasurer Claudia Díaz, and her husband, Adrián González (aka Guarapiche), a former bodyguard for Hugo Chávez’s son.
Capriles has now become the Latin American leader with the most Twitter followers, and they quickly went to work. Pretty soon, we found out that Gorrín came from modest means, and that until recently he never had much money. We also learned that there are alleged links between Díaz, her husband, and Gorrín, because it is alleged that Díaz used currency exchange controls to enrich herself, the government’s party, and Gorrín. Capriles’ bottom-line suggestion is that Gorrín and Díaz are just figureheads for the real power brokers, who are none other than former Treasurer Alejandro Andrade and Diosdado Cabello himself.
What’s remarkable is that Capriles did not have to tell people all of this. He did not have to draw them a picture and fill in the blanks for them. He simply named the main players and let his readers draw the connections on their own. The term “Guarapiche” on Twitter quickly became a trove of information.
This is not only smarter, but it allows for more thorough vetting of the issues.
Here at Caracas Chronicles we’ve never been fans of Globovisión, but we recognize the important role it played in preserving freedom of speech. But while it is tempting to be frightened at Globovisión’s demise, it’s possible that we may not need it in the end. With the advent of social media, perhaps we’re all better off without our Globovisión addiction.
It’s too soon to know the answer to this question. What we do know is that the way information gets to us is changing mighty rapidly, and last night was just a sign of things to come.