ByJuanitaLeón, La Silla Vacía, May 25, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The social mobilization that is entering its fourth week now has motivated every kind of opinion against it, columns that reject it, appeals for stopping it, even marches opposed to it, like the one in Cali.

However, the most recent Invamer Poll survey that measures the urban mood in the country every two months, demonstrates that, for the majority of Colombians in the big cities, the Strike is a reason for hope and not a confirmation that this country has no way out. And that’s just one of the interesting conclusions coming out of this opinion poll.

The survey was done at three moments of the protest. Before the mobilization began (between April 23 and April 27), a second one during the beginning of the protests (from April 28 to May 3), and the most recent, 20 days later (May 18 to May 22.) This methodology also lets us see how perceptions have evolved.

Here are ten major conclusions:

  1. The perception by the political, economic, and media establishments sees one side of it, and the perception by the ordinary citizens sees another side.

Colombians continue to be very pessimistic about the situation in the country. In fact, it’s the second most pessimistic view since President Iván Duque took office, and only once during the Santos and Pastrana administrations have the opinions been this pessimistic. But even so, pessimism went down nine points and optimism increased by ten points after the first survey taken in April, when the protests had not yet begun. And the longer the protests went on, and made new gains, the greater was the increase in optimism.

And paradoxically, the place where optimism increased the most during the month of the Strike was Cali, which had turned into an epicenter of the protests (The people that think that things are getting better went from 2 in April to 24, and the pessimists went from 90 to 67, and both arrived at the level they had been when Jorge Iván Ospina took office.)

  • At its worst level, the covid is not a problem for Colombians.

 In the month of December, 14,782 Colombians died of the covid virus, and there have been 84,724 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, almost double the number of combatants killed during the armed conflict in Colombia, counting from 1958. And nevertheless, the covid has never been considered the country’s principal problem, and now it’s even less. It doesn’t even reach the survey’s margin of error.

  • Duque has overtaken Pastrana.

Disapproval of President Iván Duque’s management remains at its lowest level in history. And not just in his administration, but in all of the prior presidents since César Gaviria, when approval was first measured. And nothing he has done during the protests has changed the perception that Colombians in the big cities have of him.

During this period, Duque withdrew the tax bill, changed his Treasury and Foreign Ministers, appointed a new Afro-Colombian and very young Minister, installed a bargaining table with the Strike Committee, and created five programs directed by young people that imply an investment of billions. And nevertheless, none of that was able to modify the perception of his performance by one iota.

  • The support for the protests is overwhelming, while views of his use of violence and that of Esmad are divided.

Peaceful protests are totally legitimate according to this survey, something of a change in view of how demonstrations of this kind were perceived before the Peace Agreement, when those that protested tended to be equated with the guerrillas.

The majority of people surveyed tended to reject the blockades or the vandalism, but more than a third of respondents justified them, and rejected the interventions by Esmad or the Police in those cases. Even when the majority said they saw themselves directly affected by the Strike.

A real measure of these perceptions will be seen today during the march of silence called in Cali to reject the blockades and the use of violence by the protesters.

  • The official narrative on the Strike did not sink in.

President Duque’s soliloquy in English, like the speeches by the Defense Minister and the President in Spanish, say that this Strike is mostly manipulated, if not by the opposition leader, Gustavo Petro, then by the Maduro-Castro axis or by the FARC and ELN Dissidents. The citizens surveyed don’t see it that way.

  • The violence in the streets is taking a toll on the Mayors and Governors.

The more that violence is seen in the streets and the more blockades there are, the more the favorability of local government goes down. Not only the Mayor of Cali, Jorge Iván Ospina, but also the Governor of Valle, Clara Luz Roldán, have suffered a high cost in their favorability for their inability to control the violence in the street and the blockades. The same thing has happened to the Mayor of Bucaramanga and the Governor of Santander.

On the contrary, the Mayors of Bogotá and Medellín are favored, in that there have been no deaths like the ones in Cali during the protests, and also there is not the sensation of being besieged by the demonstrators; they both appear to be more in control, as described in La Silla.

  • None of the candidates have been able to capitalize on the crisis, but those on the right least of all.

There is no candidate whose favorability has increased during the strike, but those on the right who propose heavy-handed responses to the current situation are the ones that have lost the most: Germán Vargas, Marta Lucía Ramírez, Federico Gutiérrez, Paloma Valencia, and Enrique Peñalosa.

Álvaro Uribe, who has also lost favorability since his Declaration of Internal Disturbance, and even the military that defend him, have paid a personal cost in favorability during this Strike.

Gustavo Petro, on the other hand, whom the government and the media alike have painted as the one responsible for the Strike, has not suffered a significant variation in his favorability.

  • Support by business and labor grows with their leadership.

During this Strike, the labor unions and business groups have played a leadership role: the first as leaders of the Strike Committee, and the second as directly injured parties, not just by the blockades but rather because of the higher taxes they are going to have to pay.

But also, especially, because of the singing voice that Bruce McMaster, Director of the Andi (National Business Association of Colombia), because they have made proposals, not just on the taxes, but also on the need to take down the blockades.

This leadership by both antagonistic sectors in this Strike has increased the favorability of both of them. The business group even more, perhaps because they proved the social importance of having businesses be able to operate normally, and especially in this crisis.

  • The media are the big losers in the Strike.

As we explained in this account (HTTPS://LASILLAVACIA.COM/PARO-ATACA-LOS-GRANDES-MEDIOS-REFUERZA-LOS-ALTERNATIVOS-Y-GOLPEA-LIBERTAD-EXPRESION), in the streets the people are also marching against the media that represent an establishment that is throwing harangues, stones, and threats at them. At the same time, the followers of alternative media that are radicalizing against the establishment have skyrocketed. That rejection is also reflected in this survey.

The unfavorability of the media is by far exceeding that of the Police and the Armed Forces, and is equal to that of the unpopular Attorney General’s Office.

This survey demonstrates that today in Colombia the social networks have more credibility than the communications media, with all that that implies in terms of standards of verification of data, comparison of sources, and information bubbles. It’s a worrisome statistic for our profession that has always thought that its crisis has to do with the business model and not with the product we offer.

  1. The phantom of castrochavismo is alive and kicking.

A big part of the Uribism campaign in 2018 revolved around the fear of castrochavismo that they identified with the candidacy of Gustavo Petro.

If Iván Duque arrived at the President’s Palace with the promise of scaring away the phantom that Colombia would be turned into Venezuela, his failure can be measured in that today the majority of Colombians in the big cities believe that we are closer to following in our neighbor’s footsteps than we were three years ago.

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