Take a look at why so many companies have chosen to take part in a campaign that is more about politics than profits.
You are on your way home and you stop at a gas station to fill up the tank. You’ve had a long day filling out forms and being interviewed as you try to register your new business at the Camera de Comercio. You’ve still got more to do when you get home, so you get a caffeine kick from Juan Valdez for now, and pick up a bottle of Coca Cola for later. You’re stuck in traffic, so you pop on your favourite Carlos Vives album and try to relax.
You may not realize it, but you’ve been buying products and dealing with organizations, and even listening to music, that all have one thing in common – Soy Capaz.
Since June this year, more than 120 national and transnational companies representing over 180 brands have signed up for the ‘Soy Capaz’ (meaning ‘I am able to’ in Spanish) campaign, aimed at promoting peace in Colombia and showing support for the ongoing talks between the government and the FARC guerrillas taking place in Havana, Cuba.
|Since June this year, more than 120 national and transnational companies representing over 180 brands have signed up for the ‘Soy Capaz’ campaign
But it’s not only businesses that are promoting the idea of a lasting peace in a country that has not known it for more than 50 years – artists and athletes are Soy Capaz-ing too. Household names like footballers Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez have come out in support of the peace campaign, as have musicians Juanes, Carlos Vives, Chocquib Town and about 60 other Colombian artists and bands.
The aim of the campaign – which runs until October 10 – is to use the credibility of well-known consumer brands to set a good example, promoting reconciliation, cooperation and understanding, organizers say.
“The Soy Capaz campaign is not a company, it’s for everyone,” Bruce Mac Master, President of the National Business Association of Colombia, a principal organizer of the campaign, told La Republica newspaper.
“It is not government’s [initiative], it’s the citizens. Nor is it a political party, it is for all Colombians. It is the whole society; for a month we will realize that [Colombia] is able to achieve reconciliation,” he said.
Some of the biggest companies in Colombia, and indeed, the biggest soft drink maker in the world – Coca Cola – have all got behind the peace campaign, and many have turned their product packaging white, the colour of peace, for the campaign. Transnational burger colossus McDonald’s is also reportedly supporting the initiative.
Colombian firms that are actively participating include: Arturo Calle, Terpel, Alqueria, Alpina, Bavaria, Corona, Parmalat, Postobón, Productos Ramo, JGB, Juan Valdez, and Cencosud, as well as telecoms operators Claro, Movistar and Tigo, among dozens of others. Put together, the companies employ some 500,000 Colombians, and as a result, these people have become ambassadors (willing or unwilling) for the movement.
The gasoline company Terpel has made its 6,500 employees wear white uniforms during the campaign, while the iconic Coca Cola bottle turned to the white colour of the campaign, and coined the phrase “Soy capaz de dar el primer paso” (I am able to take the first step).
Other supporters of Soy Capaz have taken to social media with savvy #SoyCapaz Twitter and Facebook campaigns. On September 8, mobile operators Claro, Movistar and Tigo went so far as to send a text message with the ‘Soy Capaz’ catch-phrase to their 47 million customers, according to Colprensa.
Soy Capaz Backlash
However, support for a peace accord with the FARC guerrillas is by no means universal in Colombia. Some estimates put outright opposition to the peace process as high as 50 percent, and a good gauge of this was President Juan Manuel Santos’ modest re-election in March of this year. So why then, would companies whose primary responsibility is to their shareholders, risk alienating up to half of their consumer base? That’s what people who aren’t buying Soy Capaz would like to know.
After Soy Capaz gained full momentum in mid-September, the campaign saw a right-wing backlash, particularly on social media. Under the hashtag #NoComproSoyCapaz (I don’t buy Soy Capaz) social media users called for a boycott of the companies and artists supporting the peace process. The boycott was seized upon by Colombians who don’t believe the government should be trying to make peace with the FARC “terrorists,” and was so popular it was Colombia’s top Twitter trend for at least four days straight.
The most vocal Twitter opponents – many of whom have images of the right-wing Centro Democratico Party logo as their profile picture – think Soy Capaz hides a much darker agenda. Many have tweeted that Soy Capaz is propaganda to “brainwash” the Colombian people into accepting the FARC into civil society, while others contend that President Santos is in league with the rebel group in order to turn the country into a “Chavista-Castro state” – something right-wing ex-president and now Senator Alvaro Uribe and his ilk have been droning on about for months.
Most of these, of course, are unsubstantiated conspiracy theories by people who hate the FARC guerrillas with such vitriol that they don’t consider its members human.
The Soy Capaz camp, meanwhile is urging the country to have faith and give peace a chance. But as peace negotiations in Havana crawl on at a snail’s pace, and guerrilla attacks on military and civilian targets persist, so too does the culture war between those who refuse to accept the FARC’s overtures for peace and those who want nothing but.
By Mark Kennedy