Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is using Twitter to stay connected with his country while he undergoes cancer treatment in Cuba, another example of how politicians are using social media to communicate with their constituents.
In more than 40 messages this week on his @chavezcandanga Twitter account, the leader announced the approval of million dollar programs such as a garbage collection project, plans for a new park to honour Simon Bolivar in Caracas, and even provides soccer commentary. Apparently Chavez watched Venezuela’s match against Paraguay with Fidel Castro and they both felt the officials robbed Venezuela of a victory, according to the tweets.
Twitter is a way Chavez, noted for his media savvy, can remain relevant and appear strong in his home country while he undergoes treatment in Cuba.
The leader even giving “shout outs” via the social media to fellow leaders like Mexico’s Felipe Calderon, saying, “Hey President Calderon, my friend, thank you for your good wishes,” and detailing meetings with both Fidel and Raul Castro and Ecuador’s president Rafael Coerra, saying they had a “beautiful meeting this afternoon,” which was punctuated with a singing of the Venezuelan song, Alma Llanera.
Chavez’ account, which is reportedly run by a team of aides who track messages and help manage his presence, also features a hashtag slogan “ViviremosYVenceremos,” or “We will live and be victorious,” which has become a place for well-wishers to post get-well messages for the President.
World leaders’ use of Twitter is becoming so prevalent the activity is being dubbed “Twitter Diplomacy.” This past May, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt sent a tweet to his counterpart in Bahrain, saying, “Trying to get in touch with you on an issue.”
Bildt’s diplomatic tweet came just after other European leaders tweeted mostly to their own constituents about the arrest of war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic earlier that week.
Politicians around the globe realise there is value in using technology to communicate and legislate. And the practice is well established. In England, a Member of Parliament cashed in some of her tech cred by being the first person to use an iPad instead of handwritten notes, when giving a speech.
Several months ago, lawmakers in Hungary proudly announced how they used Apple’s iPad to draft their constitution, saying the device itself symbolized the democratic themes it recorded for their document.
To date, the 56-year-old Chavez isn’t using Twitter to talk with his 1.8 million followers about the type of cancer he is suffering from or specifically how his treatment is going, but does make reference to it while sending out messages. Last week, he tweeted about his recovery from the recent surgery to remove a cancerous tumour and his ongoing chemotherapy with, “We’re moving along here, brother! With God and the Virgin!”