Convincing the hearts and minds of a local population to agree with your cause used to be easy – plant a few loudspeakers in every small city, produce an around-the-clock media blitz about how fantastic the new regime is, and put armed soldiers at every streetcorner forcing people to listen. In the age of social media and instant, on-demand internet access, it takes a bit more to remain in power.
The cartel has utilized some very tech-savvy people to run their online marketing campaign, basically depicting everything in Bolivia before their arrival as terrible and grief-stricken, and everything since as sunshine and horchata. Do Bolivians drink horchata? I have no idea, but you get what I mean. From an operational perspective, combating public opinion is difficult when they’re besieged from all avenues with cartel propaganda.
Churches are everywhere, and it seems like everyone in the country goes at least twice a week. Most of the priests were owned part and parcel by the cartel and their crazy head priestess, who extolled the virtues of “Santa Muerte,” the patron saint of death. Radio DJs blasted out the cartel’s message on every station, even putting the leader’s words to catchy beats and making club remixes,
Tackling the church angle first, we found hard evidence that the Santa Muerte priesthood was even more vile and reprehensible than the Catholic church it replaced. I won’t go into details, but I will say that there are some people I’d gladly kill even if I weren’t on the government’s payroll.
Our information-sharing campaign culminated in a national broadcast by the head Santa Muete priestess, repeated on every TV channel and radio station, being mysteriously hijacked to play a covert video of her explicitly sanctioning her priests to abduct local children and perform atrocities. “You are the church,” she told them, “this is your right.”
Have you ever seen a few hundred Bolivian septuagenarians starting to riot within their own churches? It’s a beautiful thing to watch, particularly when the priests are thrown bodily from the pulpits they once wielded such power from.
It didn’t take long for Santa Muerte to be quite the unpopular religious doctrine in Bolivia.
One leg of their propaganda power structure down, one to go.