President Chávez becomes most followed Venezuelan on Twitter

Caracas, May 10. ABN.- Just two weeks after joining Twitter, President Hugo Chávez has become Venezuela’s most followed user of the online social network, with over 265,000 followers as of Monday, May 10. He is also amongst the only heads of state that is using the network to directly engage with followers, both in Venezuela and around the world.

President Chávez joined Twitter on April 28, and within 12 hours had gained more than 45,000 followers. Since then, his Twitter account – @chavezcandanga – has gained followers at a rate sometimes exceeding 1,000 per hour. It is estimated that within the first month of use, President Chávez will gain one million followers.

While his first tweets were merely informational, on May 3 he began responding directly to other Twitter users, a practice replicated by virtually none of the other heads of state that use the service. (His first response was to a Mexican girl, to whom he wished a happy birthday for her sister.) He has also taken to responding to tweets during presidential addresses and speeches.

On May 7, President Chávez announced that he was assigning a number of aides to help respond to the multitude of requests coming in through Twitter, and also announced the creation of a special fund to directly assist those who contact him on Twitter and that require immediate attention in key areas such as housing and health.

Venezuela has become a hotbed for Twitter, with over 300,000 registered users to date. Additionally, over five million Venezuelans use Facebook. The use of online social networks mirrors a dramatic growth in access to the Internet in Venezuela. Since 2000, the number of Venezuelans with access to the Internet has grown from 800,000 to over 7.5 million. In 2000, only three percent of the Venezuelan people were online; in 2009, that number stood at 27 percent.

The Venezuelan government has moved aggressively to make access to the Internet free and universal. In recent years, 668 Infocenters – community-based Internet access points – have been founded, and $10 million has been set aside to build 200 more in 2010. The Infocenters are a central component of the government’s plans to broaden Internet access and offer low-income sectors access to online tools and services.

The Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Washington, D.C. also uses Twitter, and can be found at @VzlaEmbassyUS.

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S. Press and Communications Office / May 10 2010


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