I admit that when Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia, I was hopeful. After centuries of being marginalized and disenfranchized, Bolivia’s indigenous population finally had some real representation in government, and at long last change could come.
Unfortunately, much of the change has been in the government’s consolidation of power at the expense of freedom and openness. Bolivia’s press has long been threatened by a hostile government, but now the government is going after social media.
“I am always going online, and I am writing down the first and last names of the people who insult him on Facebook and Twitter,” Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said in remarks widely reported in Bolivian media this week.
The message is clear: watch what you say because the government is watching you. Not so, says a government spokesperson:
Constructive criticism is fine, said Franklin Garvizu, a congressman from the president’s party. But officials have seen something more nefarious, he said.
“We are very worried because this is a case of systematically using communications mechanisms to plant hatred against the government, to harm the image of our president,” Garvizu said.
So, as long as you say nice things about the government, you have nothing to worry about.