Teachers take the streets and social media to protest

Teachers take the streets and social media to protest

Published on 17 Aug 2022

So far in 2022, especially since February, educators have marked the pulse of the protest in the street and on Twitter, where often the prevailing narrative is the manipulated version of the facts imposed from the propaganda apparatus of Nicolás Maduro's regime and its digital troops.

At ProBox we study the socio-political conversation of the hashtags positioned as trending topic on Twitter in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua; this allows us to determine how much has been made by real users and how much is being generated by inauthentically coordinated accounts or possible bots to manipulate public opinion.

In the case of Venezuela, civil society is one of the main actors in the conversation through hashtags of social protest. From January 2021 to July 2022 we have registered 418 trends and around 2,603,000 tweets belonging to this sector; the teachers’ guild has positioned 38.76% of these, generating 41.54% of the tweets (1,081,414 tweets approximately).

So far in 2022, especially since February, educators have marked the pulse of the protest in the street and on Twitter, where often the prevailing narrative is the manipulated version of the facts imposed from the propaganda apparatus of Nicolás Maduro’s regime and its tweeting troops.

The organization of teachers at the digital level has represented an important part of the socio-political conversation in networks, except in May when they did not position any hashtag; between April and July the proportion of protest trends driven by teachers has increased by 11.87% and 23.13% in terms of the proportion in tweets with respect to the rest of civil society.

This articulation has made it possible to confront manipulated tags generated by the regime such as #MaestrosForjadoresDeAmor (“Teachers Builders of Love”), by positioning trends that go hand in hand with the reality reported by independent media, international organizations, etc., on the current situation of teaching in Venezuela such as #SalarioJustoYa (“Fair Salary Now”) and #DeroguenElInstructivoONAPRE (“Revoke ONAPRE Instructive”).

Salary demands: main reason for teacher protests

Educators reached their highest peak of activity in July 2022, where they positioned 17 trends demanding the fulfillment of their payments and salary improvements, as well as the repeal of the National Budget Office (ONAPRE) instruction. This coincides with the 1,642 street demonstrations for decent salaries, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS).

In the first week of August, 8 protest trends promoted by teachers have been positioned, demanding the fulfillment of their salary rights. These accumulated around 230,500 tweets.

The reasons for the protests have been mainly economic (61 trends and 88.61% of the tweets registered), followed by educational issues (13 trends and 8.58% of the tweets), reasons linked to health (5 trends and 2.59% of the tweets) and humanitarian reasons (2 trends and 0.23% of the tweets).

Teachers have positioned 59 trends with 58.41% of the tweets registered, university professors (groups such as FAPUV) have positioned 20 trends and 40.97% of the tweets, and finally the student movement positioned 2 trends in support of the union with 0.62% of the tweets registered.

Protests linked to economic reasons refer mainly to the payment of salaries, bonuses and benefits established by law for all workers, from Probox we have also registered sectors such as retirees and pensioners of CANTV, unions from various industries, nurses, doctors, public administration employees, etc. that have demonstrated on Twitter against salary limitations and the violation of their labor rights by the State.

According to our record from January 2021 to July 2022, 105 protest trends have been positioned for economic reasons and approximately 733,073 tweets related to this type of claims in networks. Teachers’ trends represent 42.86% of the trends and 37.56% of the messages in this regard. In a publication made in January in alliance with Caracas Chronicles about this union, we reported how this is the most active in digital protest, mentioning Venezuelan teachers as the worst paid in the region according to the NGO Fundaladeshu.

Reality vs. Fiction: regime ignores protest and persecutes activists

Venezuelan teachers maintain the daily struggle to survive, to demand their rights and to face the repression of the State, evidencing in the streets and in the digital world the reality of the workers in Venezuela, while the State is dedicated to persecute activists and manipulate the digital conversation with propaganda and messages of social welfare” and “progress”.

In the framework of the street demonstrations demanding the repeal of the ONAPRE instructions, at least half a dozen union leaders, activists and militants of the political parties Bandera Roja and the Communist Party of Venezuela have been arrested.

The host of the pro-government program “La Hojilla”, Mario Silva, described the teachers as “taxpayers” of the United States. Likewise, he threatened that if the teachers decide to go on strike they will see “how the red tide will go over them” because “we are in battle and this country is in special conditions. We are growing so that it hurts you. Throw the national strike to see who will follow you”, he warned.

Nicolás Maduro referred to the digital demonstrations of the teachers against ONAPRE saying that “they are a lie product of a little campaign they have in the networks, a manipulation of the failed left allied with the corrupt right”.

An example of how the regime seeks to overshadow the digital protest by manipulating the conversation was registered on July 28, when the Ministry of Communication and Information (MIPPCI) positioned the trend #68AñosEnElCorazónDelPueblo (“68 years in the heart of the people”) with approximately 600,000 tweets commemorating the birth of Hugo Chávez, while teachers protested with #PagoVacacionalCompleto (“Complete Vacational Bonus”) with around 30,000 messages demanding the fulfillment of their labor rights.

While at least 78.48% of the messages of the teachers’ trends were made by real users, 89.08% of the tweets in that of the MIPPCI were generated by coordinated accounts with inauthentic behavior.

Another more recent example of this manipulation of the regime in the digital world was evidenced on August 10: on August 9, the ruling party called for a demonstration “in defense of the confiscated assets”, i.e. the gold in the Bank of England, CITGO, Monomers and the Iranian plane retained in Argentina. MIPPCI promoted the hashtags #AlRescateDeNuestrosBienes (“To the Rescue of our Assets”) and #LosQueremosDeVuelta (“We Want You Back”) inviting to the demonstration. Both trends accumulated around 800,000 tweets of which an average of 90% were made in a coordinated manner by inauthentic accounts.

However, on August 10, the MIPPCI used the same images of the previous day’s rally, but changed its narrative to “workers with the revolution”, implying that it was a march of different unions in support of the State, positioning: #GranMarchaSocialista (“Grand Socialist March”) and #TrabajadoresConLaPatria (“Workers with Homeland”). Together, these trends totaled approximately 830,000 tweets, an average of 92.66% of which were inauthentic.

In July 2022 alone, the ruling party generated approximately 7,942,945 inauthentic messages, seeking to manipulate the perception of the situation in Venezuela and to influence national and international public opinion through the Twitter conversation. On the other hand, civil society obtained an average of 71.16% of its messages made authentically, validating once again that not everything massive on social networks is real.

The Latest

On Friday, August 12, the regime of Nicolás Maduro promised to “fully pay the totality of the teachers’ vacation next week” during a meeting of pro-government unions. The news was shared on the Twitter accounts of the Minister for Labor, Francisco Torrealba, the Minister of Education, Yelitze Santaella and the head of University Education, Tibisay Lucena. As well as the dismissal of Marco Polo Consenza as director of the National Budget Office (Onapre), as published in Official Gazette 42.439 of the same August 12.

This started a digital propaganda campaign from the MIPPCI under the hashtag #GraciasPresidenteObrero, positioned as a trend alleging that “the truth always wins”. This hashtag generated around 250,000 messages of which at least 91.15% were manipulated.

However, teachers stated that they will continue protesting to demand other claims such as the payment of 280% corresponding to the debt of the II Collective Convention of 2018, as well as the elimination of the Onapre’s instructive, since the complaints are not only linked to the vacation payment but to the working conditions of all the unions in the country.

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