Thursday 25 February 2021

In Costa Rica we also have violent groups and angry Trumpists

The question of what to do with the violent Trumpistas in the United States is therefore relevant for Costa Rica as well, with the advantage that here in theory we can still avoid repeating the mistakes of the United States.

QCOSTARICA – This week millions will watch the transfer of powers in the United States with one question on their minds: What to do about the violent Trumpists who will remain active after Trump leaves the White House?

For years, Donald Trump used social media and the American ideological press to bring his followers to a state of mind in which violence seems to them the only option left to “take back the country.”

The irony is that in Costa Rica we must ask ourselves a very similar question, even though we have a solid democratic tradition.

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These are clearly countries with very different contexts, but also with relevant circumstances in common.

The US Trumpists, convinced of a fraud that never happened, have already attacked the Capitol and tried to assassinate Democratic leaders and “traitorous” Republicans. Although they have no evidence, they believe in conspiracy theories, each one more fanciful than the last.

The FBI and terrorism experts warn that more attacks can be expected in the near future because the foundations of this violence did not emerge overnight.

For years, Trump used social media and the American ideological bias to lead his followers to a state of mind in which violence seems to them the only option left to “take back the country.”

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For them, saying that the Bible confirms Trump as God’s envoy or that Democrats are Satanists who take blood from abuse children is more realistic than the possibility that their candidate will lose the election.

Trump also struggled to attract a mix of armed groups that for years have been preparing for a “civil war.” Some are white supremacists, some are religious fundamentalists, and some are anarchists.

Costa Rica does not have “militias” or laws that provide easy access to weapons such as automatic machine guns, but in recent years political violence has begun to emerge in the streets in parallel with the radicalization of certain segments of the population on social media.

The most recent example was the groups that organized to paralyze the country. As the days passed, they became more comfortable destroying public and private property, and even shooting at the police.

Explosive detonated in front of Teletica television station in La Sabana in July 2019

As the Constitutional Court rightly pointed out, the actions of these groups represent a “detriment to the popularly elected Government and a disrespect for the constitutionally cast vote.”

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Another example is the explosives placed on the outskirts of a television outlet and the office of a legislator, terrorist actions that the authorities tracked down to a self-described resistance group. The group’s communications show that it was also targeting the President.

There is no shortage of people who minimize these groups and refuse to see them as a real danger to democratic stability. This happened in the United States just days before the attack on the Capitol, despite reports that warned of violent plans.

Both countries have long enjoyed continuous peaceful democratic transitions and these inspire in many a certain exceptionalism, a false sense of “that cannot happen here”.

However, conspiracy theorizing and radicalization through social media has made some segments of the population much more volatile and potentially violent.

People genuinely convinced there was a fraud took part in the attack in Washington DC. Many also believed they were fulfilling their “Christian duty” to “recover the country for God.” The sense of “reality” of these people is limited to conspiracy theories that demand not only to vote in a certain way but also to use the channels of fact.

In Costa Rica, we have already seen the speed with which violent actions can be organized online, for example, when a mob attacked Nicaraguans in a capital park. Additionally, we have online groups touting the same Trump conspiracy theories and causing outrage over the alleged fraud.

Facebook pages share xenophobic content and fake news to promote hatred towards the Nicaraguan population in the country.

The Costa Rican Trumpistas

In recent weeks, it has been common to see Costa Ricans repeating that Trump had the election supposedly “stolen” from him. Furthermore, they express outrage with the left, the globalists, the “deep state” and other groups to whom they attribute the non-existent fraud.

They also repeat fanciful conspiracy theories, such as that the videos in which Trump accepts the new administration actually reveal “in code” his plans to use the military after Biden is sworn in to seize power and start a “new republic.”

They are joined by trolling accounts based in countries like Argentina or Spain dedicated to reaffirming conspiracy theories when someone denies them. This suggests an internationally organized effort to keep such theories alive.

One problem with all the outrage Costa Rican Trumpists experience online is that it is not dissipated or directed at its alleged perpetrators in the United States. On the contrary, many of these people begin to attribute to the left, the globalists, or the so-called “deep state” of Costa Rica intentions to commit a similar fraud.

Some may believe it. Others are unscrupulous people willing to use conspiracy theories as a “hook” to attract voters or increase their audience on social networks.

Worse still, some in Costa Rica have applauded the attack on the Capitol and called it an act of “patriotism.” That is, they see it as a valid option.

Thus, although the electoral campaign has not even begun formally, conspiracy theories have already begun to circulate that cast doubt on the results of the next elections. The rhetoric against those who see as the alleged perpetrators or beneficiaries of such (invented) fraud already seems to increase its degree of toxicity.

The question of what to do with the violent Trumpists in the United States is therefore relevant for Costa Rica as well, with the advantage that here in theory we can still avoid repeating the mistakes of the United States.

Social media companies in the United States have understood that lending themselves to amplify misinformation has serious consequences. But they don’t pay the same attention to other countries, like Costa Rica.

No one has a perfect answer, but it is clear that avoiding violence and perhaps political instability will require a lot of responsibility on the part of political parties and leaders, something that we have had in limited doses in recent years.

It will also require prevention and effective police action, something the current government has failed to do by allowing streets to be blocked in protests for prolonged periods.

The work of the press and entities such as the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE) – Civil Registry and Elections Tribunal –  will also be essential to offer timely and easy-to-understand information for the most humble citizens.

For their part, social networks in the United States have understood that lending themselves to amplify disinformation has serious consequences. However, they do not pay much attention to countries like Costa Rica and this could require a country strategy to demand a more responsible service from them.

Translated and adapted from the La Nacion article “En Costa Rica también tenemos grupos violentos y trumpistas enojados”. Read the original here.


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