Colombian “Influencer” Receives Fat Government Contracts, Watchdogs Accuse Petro Government of Passing Out “Marmalade”
A popular social media activist has come under scrutiny after being awarded a “digital strategy” deal with the administration of Colombian President Gustavo Petro, with some political pundits in Colombia questioning how appropriate it is for the government to contract political supporters as social media influencers.
Laura Daniela Beltrán Palomares, a social media activist better known as Lalis, was called out on Twitter last week by lawyer Daniel Briceño to have accepted a year-long, multimillion-dollar contract with the government of Colombian President Gustavo Petro where Lalis is tasked to help advise on the government’s “digital strategy,” according to Colombian daily El Pais.
En Colombia Compra Eficiente contrataron a la influenciadora Lalis para “asesorar” la estrategia de Tik Tok y destinaron más de 1.000 millones para productoras cercanas a Hollman Morris y para derrochar en la producción de videos y cuñas.
Recursos para los amigos.
Abro hilo pic.twitter.com/sgsGeplUG2
— Daniel F. Briceño (@Danielbricen) January 23, 2023
The social media influencer was a vocal supporter of Petro during his presidential campaign. Lalis was well-known for posting videos and other content that looked favorably upon the Petro administration’s policies, Semana reported.
During the electoral campaign, she was also known for criticizing influencers who worked with previous President Iván Duque and accepted government contracts, including fellow influencer Natalia Bedoya. Those attacks were criticized as bordering “on misogyny and persecution” by councilor Julián Rodríguez .
With the revelations of her accepting an 11-month contract worth $51 million after the end of a two-month contract worth $10 million, Lalis has found herself criticized by both sides of the aisle for the contract. Her primary critic, however, has been the former actor and House Representative Agmeth Escaf, who has been arguing with her across Twitter days before the allegations surfaced, El Colombiano reported.
Bueno, esto se lo pensaba contar mañana a @VickyDavilaH en entrevista, pero se me adelantaron.
Defiendo el derecho al trabajo, pero el ciudadano también tiene derecho a saber si el contenido que consume se trata de activismo independiente o de publicidad política pagada. ¿O no? pic.twitter.com/j3HQzseF11
— AGMETH ESCAF (@agmethescaf) January 23, 2023
Among the many criticisms that he has leveled, Escaf has also questioned why Lalis was given an eleven-month-long contract when the typical length of a government contractor would be around four months.
While Lalis has not responded to the allegations, she has said that she has the “constitutional right” to work, and that “[she] love[s] working on what [she] studied with so much effort. That [she] strive[s] to continue building the country and that it is chimba (fun) to work in the ‘government of change.’”
In the aftermath of the allegations, Escaf has filed a bill pushing for content creators to reveal whether or not their content has been sponsored to help readers differentiate between authentic recommendations and advertisements.
“I defend the right to work, but the citizen also has the right to know if the content they consume is about independent activism or paid political advertising. Or not?” Escaf said.
The Petro administration has not officially commented on the situation, but the usually Petro-friendly Alianza Verde (the Green Alliance) has also openly questioned why the government has been paying money to influencers like Lalis.
Photo: Twitter @smilelalis