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New narratives for emerging politics: Latin America creaks

Latin America creaks. The subcontinent withstands onslaughts like an old wooden boat. Venezuela creaks from the heat of the polls, Brazil creaks with the Impeachment of Dilma Rousseff1, Guatemala creaked2. Argentina creaks too: on October 25th, Mauricio Macri almost equaled the ruling Peronist candidate Daniel Scioli, and went on to beat him in the second run on November 22nd. Ten years after the "NO to the FTAA"3, staged in Mar del Plata, Argentina by Nestor Kirchner, one might think that a domino effect is starting to overturn the governments that ruled this beginning of century.

The demonstration “Amor Sí, Macri No” (Yes to love, No to Macri) in Parque Centenario, Buenos Aires. / Facción Latina

However, different things are happening up in the political parties and down in the streets. In the party system, what is happening is known. Wear, mistakes, corruption and the decline in the price of raw materials are putting pressure on the balance of power among the parties. And at the center of the dispute lies the control of a new narrative. A narrative that, as in Uruguay in 2014, or in Argentina in 2015, seeks to excite or to drive a desire for change, reinforced by the big media groups. In the Uruguayan dispute, Tabare Vazquez won; in Argentina, the victory went to Mauricio Macri, the son of one of the richest men in the country.

But political parties don’t have a monopoly on the narrative. During the Argentinian second round of the Argentinian ballot, dozens of villages responded to say 'no' to the neoliberal candidate. The "Amor Sí, Macri No" campaign (Yes to love, No to Macri) remobilized a knocked-out officialism, left without a plan B after the tighter-than-expected results of the first round. What was behind "Amor Sí, Macri No" ; what it has in common with other Latin American movements, is a core of activists ready to generate their own narrative. In fact, "Amor Sí, Macri No" descends directly from a similar campaign "Amor Si, Russomanno Não" that helped the Partido dos Trabalhadores to win Sao Paulo's mayorship.

A map of some “Amor Sí, Macri No” events. / Facción Latina

If there is something to highlight in Argentina, where Mauricio Macri won with a very thin advance, iit is that a choral narrative without acronyms can work. On a small scale and with its own specificities, "Amor Sí, Macri No" re-emphasizes the mosaic of coming narratives. This campaign was born in one single place and, pushed by a small core of seven people, it got viral on the Internet and spread in the physical space. New memes4, new photos, videos, graphics and text were produced every day. The initial team in Buenos Aires could push the first replicas, but the others, more than 30, appeared by themselves. They appeared by affinity, because the narrative met a moment of opportunity.

The basic difference between a political campaign and a popular movement such as the 15M in Europe is that the campaigns have a beginning and an end. The assemblies may, or may not, survive beyond a fixed horizon. We don’t know yet whether, following the Argentinian vote5, "Amor Sí, Macri No", now renamed "Amor Sí", will continue, and in which direction and organization. The goal is not so much to create fixed structures but rather a network capable of assembling and responding to opportune moments.

Instructions on how to organize assemblies for the “Amor Sí, Macri No” campaign. / Facción Latina

So, far from the election results, what it can be seen is a rich constellation of interrelated entities with an unequivocal will to build their own narrative universe. On September 26th, Montevideo hosted the third meeting of Facción Latina, an umbrella for a growing number of activist entities, which brought together more than 200 representatives and journalists from all over Latin America. It may seem very few people, but if seven people can hold an intensive communication campaign, 200 people trained in the use of social networks could have a far larger reach.

Calibrating the collaborative network that has been born is not easy. While Facción Latina keeps growing at each meeting, this year the Emergências meeting will mark a new milestone. When this article gets published, this event in Rio de Janeiro, expected to draw 4,000 persons, will have ended. From December 7th to 13th, media activists and representatives of social movements will have gathered precisely to precisely new narratives. The event will feature giants such as Fora do Eixo, a collaborative and decentralized free University with activism houses, their own bank and their media-activist core “Ninja Midia”, also present at the meeting in Montevideo.

These meetings are strategic for people accustomed to work in networks to get to know each others, grow together and explore possibilities for more networking. Emergências, which is supported by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, gathers more than 300 invited guests, such as musician Gilberto Gil, former Minister of Culture under Lula da Silva. The expectations are high. Hundred events designed to exchange ideas and experience are programmed, with for instances debates titled "The political adventures of the XXth century", "Imaginary in transit" or "Meeting of bloggers" and "Latin American communication networks".

“Amor Sí, Macri No” reunited thousands of protesters in Parque Centenario. / Facción Latina

So, if Latinamerica creaks, is because we cannot stop looking at the networks formed among media activists. The Faccion Latina meeting in Montevideo showed that the problems and approaches are largely shared. The will to join is important and communication becomes more fluid. We will have to wait for what comes to Venezuela, we will have to see what happens with Dilma in Brazil. Above all, or just at the bottom of it all, the networked, collaborative construction is advancing horizontally.

The caravans heading right now to Emergências toddle on the road. From Argentina, 5 buses just left, each of them sharing a small Emergências that cannot wait for the main encounter. Each of them has dozens of cameras and a media team on board. While the old politics infight, new collaborative narratives expand and share their tools.

Notes


  1. Impeachment is the process of indicting the President. In Brazil, it is allowed only when the President is held directly responsible of an offense. The decision of whether impeachment is possible is made by the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, a member of the PMDB (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro). Cunha recently lost the support of the PT since he has been linked to the "Lava Jato" corruption case (Petrobras). A polarized "Ethics Council" has yet to decide whether Cunha will be investigated or not. Meanwhile, following the impeachment, Dilma Rousseff broke with the PMDB and the Vice President Michel Temer. 

  2. The Guatemalans took the street against corruption in the government and managed to oust President Perez Molina. 

  3. In 2005, at the Fourth Summit of the Americas, Lula da Silva, Hugo Chavez, Nestor Kirchner, Tavare Vazquez and Nicanor Duarte announced in Mar del Plata, Argentina, their decision not to join the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), sponsored by George W. Bush. 

  4. Although there are many definitions for meme, the one used here is that of "kidnapping an original idea." "Amor Sí, Macri No" took pictures and redefined them humorously. It also used animated gifs. 

  5. A second round in the Argentinian presidential elections opposes the two leaders of the first round. It is held when the winner of the first round fails to reach either the absolute majority, or a simple majority with a 10% lead on the second candidate.