Venezuela’s Chavez Takes the Media War to Twitter

Within just 22 hours Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s new twitter account has over 79,000 followers.

By Tamara Pearson - Venezuelanalysis.com

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President Hugo Chavez (agencies)
President Hugo Chavez (agencies)
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Merida, April 28th, 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Within just 22 hours Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s new twitter account has over 79,000 followers. The move follows recent claims by opposition leaders and media that Chavez wanted to “censor” the internet.

Twitter is the micro-blogging website where users can post messages or announcements of up to 140 characters. The president’s first tweet, translated, said, “Hey, how’s it going? I appeared as I said, at midnight. I’m off to Brazil, and I’m very happy to work for Venezuela. We will win!!”

Earlier yesterday Chavez had confirmed that the creation of the account would be around midnight, and spent the day in Brazil, signing a range of agreements with his counterpart President Lula Da Silva.

Chavez’s twitter address is http://twitter.com/chavezcandanga. His description reads, “President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Bolivarian, Socialist and Anti-imperialist Soldier.” Candanga is Venezuelan slang for people who are restless or tireless. It is also used to mean blunt and to the point.

Within a short time after its launch at midnight, the account already had around 23,000 followers, Telesur reports.

US president Barack Obama is among the top ten most followed on Twitter with nearly 3.8 million followers. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is the next most popular head of state with 1.7 million followers, while the new right wing Chilean president Sebastian Pinera is the most followed South American leader, with only 89,643 followers, and years on Twitter. Opposition channel Globovision has 216,000 followers.

PSUV leader Diosdado Cabello told press, “The opposition thinks they are the leaders of the social networks. They think that Twitter and Facebook are theirs. We are fighting the battle... everyone in the PSUV, let’s all have an account.”

The move by Chavez comes in the context of a local and international media war, with government officials saying that the opposition media frequently distort and lie in their news coverage of the Venezuelan government, while the opposition accuses the Venezuelan government of “repressing” them, such as when the government refused to renew the license of coup-supporting TV channel RCTV in 2007.

Also, in March, Chavez publically criticised website Noticiero Digital for falsely reporting the assassination of a government official. National and international mainstream press reported the criticism as a desire by Chavez to “censor” the internet.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government has set up 668 “info-centres” or free internet and computer centres around the country to help make the internet more accessible to the population.