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Chávezian Populism, Delivered Via Twitter

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, August 10 2010

Photo credit: Bernardo Londoy

The Guardian notes that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has taken to Twitter like a fish to water, the micro-platform serving to make him more Chávezian, his Latin American populism ever more distilled. "Twitter has become a fundamental instrument for Chávez," says one political scientists quoted in the piece. "It has tremendous propaganda value and is part of his charisma mechanism."

Chávez -- or @chavezcandanga -- has amassed some 720,000 followers since he introduced himself to the world of Twitter back in April. Chávez has no doubt attracted followers around the globe, by applied to the population of his country, that would make it so that about one in 40 Venezuelans were his Twitter contacts.

That's too much for one man to handle alone. The Guardian reports that Chávez claims to have brought on an enormous squad of Twitter wranglers to master the hundreds of thousands of requests for help that have come in thus far:

The leftist leader ordered the establishment of a 200-strong team to process and respond to the avalanche of messages complaining about government services and requesting help.

"This telephone is close to melting. Now I am aware of many things going on here," said Chávez, brandishing his BlackBerry, during a recent televised meeting with police officials.

Since signing on to the service in April, Venezuela's leader has routinely ordered ministers to attend to specific tweets. Told of an apparent mugging and kidnapping, he tweeted: "I'm telling [interior] minister Tarek [El Aissami] to investigate!! Good luck friend."

The direct line to Chávez is, it seems, open to many. The Guardian notes that "cheap internet cafes have put many of the poor online" and "BlackBerries are common even in impoverished barrios."