Who knew Hugo Chavez is an avid ‘Tweeter”?
Today in my “real job” I was working with a colleague on our Twitter strategy. I have an account for the Daily Clarity of course, but haven’t really figured out the value in it. Twitter is just one of those things I just don’t get. I have email. I have SMS text messaging. I have Facebook, web sites and I have cell phone. If you want to reach me, it’s not too much of a challenge. If I want to talk to you about something, I will either contact you directly using one of the above mentioned methods or I will wrote about it. Which to me, makes Twitter all but extraneous.
I am not saying Twitter doesn’t have value for some. It was used for good in the Iran Green ‘revolution’ and other media restricted territories. If you are a fan of Ashton Kutcher and want to see candid photos of his wife, Demi Moore, I also understand Twitter may have titillation interest. However, for the people I want to read, I want to read more than 140 characters so I visit their sites or correspond directly.
Though, in doing some research around Twitter for my work project, I did find someone I might want to follow their ‘tweets’ for amusement value, and that is Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez. It would be fascinating to determine quite how divorced he is from reality and his tweets might tell me. The other roughly half a million followers he has picked up in a month or so since tweeting as @chavezcandanga are also apparently glued to his account. Some will no doubt be the faithful, but there is a good chance that many others are following him for amusement or just simply to find out what stunt he is going to pull next. Maybe, Twitter can be useful to me after all.
Since coming to power in 1999, Chavez has received thousands of letters appealing for help with medical expenses, finding a home or jobs for relatives. Now these requests are digital.
He has taken to micro-blogging with a passion himself — breaking the predawn news that a gas exploration rig had sunk last month, and calling on the public to ‘Tweet’ him with cases of people changing money illegally, among many other examples.
“Look at this message: @chavezcandanga, we are graduates of UNEF Zulia (university), 90 percent of us are unemployed. Please help commander,” he read out one entreaty during a televised cabinet meeting. “We are going to deal with this. We can’t ignore it. That would be very irresponsible. We have to listen, talk and find solutions.”
One local study of messages to Chavez’s account in between May 7-8 found that 43 percent were petitions and complaints, 31 percent were positive and 17.6 percent were negative.
The president says he has learned three important lessons from his new form of contact with the outside world: that Venezuela is still living in the “reign of injustice” that is capitalism, that socialism is far from achieving its goals and, most importantly, that people still believe in him.
“It is sad if people have no one to believe in, no one to write to, nowhere to go to criticize, to complain, to ask for help,” he said.
Chavez now reads out messages he has received at almost all public events. His reactions range from explosive laughter to outrage — and not anger at offensive texts, which he usually takes with good humor, but at Venezuelans’ appeals for help in the face of corruption or incompetence in the government.
After reading each petition, he earnestly orders his ministers to seek a solution, while nodding officials carrying clipboards list the names and problems he dictates