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Twitter and Latin American Presidents: Does It Make Them Closer to Us?

Five years ago it was unimaginable to think that the president of a country could be so close that one could know what he/she thinks, what he/she does or doesn't do, basically have him/her at a hands reach. Today, Twitter allows us to interact with political figures, give them suggestions, get angry, see what they are up to and tell them what to do and what not to do.

Argentinean President, Cristina Fernández [es] in her Twitter account @CFKArgentina with 482,658 followers announced that she will become a grandmother with the following message [es]:

Este, lo haría feliz. Máximo, nuestro hijo, va a ser papá ¡Voy a tener un nieto! ¡CFK abuela! Dios te quita…, Dios te da

This would make him happy. Maximo, our son, will become a dad! I'm going to have a grandson! Grandmother CFK! God takes away…, God gives you

And this is how, on July 13, the hashtag #CFKabuela became Twitter trending topic with both favorable and unfavorable reactions, like the one written by Manu (@by_manur) [es] who, with irony aimed at President's son, said:

Definitivamente Maximo [el hijo de la Presidenta] estaba destinado a ser el soltero menos codiciado. Hasta que lo hicieron cargo del hijo de otro. #cfkabuela

Definitively Maximo [the President's son] was destined to be the least desirable bachelor. Until they made him responsible for another man's son. #cfkabuela

Or the tweet where Facundo Caballero (@facukaballero), member of the Popular Academic Front (Frente Universitario Popular) and proud supporter of Kirchner according to his profile description in Twitter:

Felicitaciones Presidenta!!! #cfkabuela

Screenshot of President Chavez's Twitter account.

Screenshot of President Chavez's Twitter account.

Congratulations Mrs. President!!! #cfkabuela

One of the most active accounts is Hugo Chavez Frias‘ (@chavezcandanga), President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with 1,752,598 followers and 1,121 tweets accumulated until the time this post was written. He too congratulates the Argentinean Head of State for her announcement:

@CFKArgentina !Cristina,vas a ser abuela! Maravilloso! Bienvenida desde ya al club! Felicitame a Maximo y a su mujer! Viva la Vida

@CKFArgentina Cristina, you're going to become a grandma! Wonderful! Welcome to the club! Please congratulate Maximo and his wife on my behalf! Life is beautiful!

And since on July 13, Venezuela played against Paraguay in the Copa America, he seized the moment to send a tweet to the Paraguayan President, Fernando Lugo:

Ay compadre Presidente Lugo, allá viene La Vinotinto!! A jugar Futbol pues! Viva Venezuela!

Sorry my friend President Lugo, here comes the vinotinto (“red wine” – nickname for the Venezuelan soccer team)!! Let's play football then! Long live Venezuela!

And this is how he celebrated the last minute tie 3-3 between Venezuela and Paraguay:

@chavezcandanza Se los dije!!!! Qué Grande es Venezuela!!!! Empateeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! Viva La Patria de Bolívar!!! Viva nuestra Juventud!!!!!

@chavezcandanza I told you!!!! Venezuela is big!!!! Tieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Long live Bolivar's Nation!!! Long live our youth!!!!!!

President Chavez has urged Bolivian President, Evo Morales Ayma [es], to create his own Twitter account. In this video, we can see the moment in which the Venezuelan President comments on his own initiation on the social network and invites Morales to join him:

Even though he does interact when it comes to personal issues, he doesn't behave the same when it comes to official announcements where citizens ask, claim or suggest. La Patilla [es] comments on this situation in his post “After a year of @chavezCandanga: a true #fail” (“A un año de @chavezCandanga: un verdadero #fail”):

¿Que tuitea Chávez? Pues, propaganda. En los 82 mensajes que ha tuiteado el presidente durante el año 2011 (Uno cada 1,09 días) 62 tienen que ver con su “Revolución“. Pero no en forma de presentación de resultados (que si tiene: 3 tweets), sino en forma de consignas y hasta de “barra” de sus ministros (durante las interpelaciones en la Asamblea Nacional).

What does Chavez tweet about? Well, propaganda. From the 82 messages that the president has tweeted since 2011 (one every 1.09 days) 62 have to do with his “Revolution”. But not as a way to present results (he does have 3 tweets about that), but as chants and even “cheers” for his Ministers (during the hearings of the National Assembly)

Costa Rican President, Laura Chinchilla, also has an official account (@PresidentaCR) “from the information office”, she comments, with a news style, on her activities as a head of state. Until July 13, the account had published 3,718 tweets.

Nonetheless, there's another account (@Laura_Ch) where we can read about the interaction she has with normal citizens. After an announcement, using the hashtag #CCSS (Costa Rican Social Security Cash Desk), netizens on Twitter exchange thoughts with the leader on her annoucement that the government will bail out the Costa Rican Social Security Cash Desk with more than 166.3 million dollars because it is “going through a rough financial crisis”, as reported in NTN24 [es]. The president wrote:

Debemos entender que hemos pagado parte de la deuda en medio de un serio problema fiscal. Esto también deberá resolverse urgentemente.#CCSS

We should understand that we have bailed out part of the debt in the midst of a tax problem. The latter should also be solved urgently. #CCSS

Juan Diego Quiros (@juandiegocr1) replied to this comment as follows:

@Laura_Ch la #ccss necesita ser eficiente y eficaz para realizar cobros a morosos

@Laura_Ch the #ccss needs to be efficient and effective in collection of due debts

Roberto Suarez (@LicSuarez), Laura de los Santos (@virgidls), Luis Carlos Olivares (@Olivares_Oecono), and Fernando Salas (@josefer2010) also reacted to the president's tweet. She responded directly to several tweets on the issue, among them one to Gabriela Cantero (@gcantero87):

Considero que el personal de la #CCSS tiene mucho que ver con sus problemas. Es necesario buscar proactividad @Laura_Ch

I think the staff of #CCSS has a lot to do with its problems. It is necessary to look for proactivity @Laura_Ch

The president replied:

@gcantero87 En la Caja hay mucha gente buena y sacrificada, confío en que sabrán asumir con responsabilidad esta situación. #CCSS

@gcantero87 There's a lot of good sacrificed people in the Cash Desk, I trust they will assume the situation with responsibility. #CCSS

On July 14, the president closed her account with the following message, leaving the possibility open for citizens to continue giving suggestions:

Desafortunadamente debo ir dejándoles. Recojo ideas y sugerencias y agradezco mucho su valiosa participación. #CCSS

Unfortunately, I have to leave you. I take with me your ideas and suggestions and I thank you a lot for you valuable participation. #CCSS

Felipe Calderon, Mexico‘s President already has 792,351 followers in his account @felipecalderon. We can observe there a conversation between him and Roberto Bolaños, ‘Chespirito’ (@chespiritoRGB), after the head of state announced the opening of a mine in Zacatecas:

Inauguré la mina “el Saucito” en Zacatecas, inversión de 3 500 millones de Peñoles. México recupera su lugar 1er productor de plata.

I inaugurated a mine, “the Saucito” in Zacatecas, an investment of 3500 million in Peñoles. Mexico gains back its first place as a silver producer.

And Chespirito said:

@FelipeCalderon ¡Felicidades, donFelipe!

@FelipeCalderon Congratulations, Mr. President!

However, Arely Velazquez (@mamARELY) asks:

@ChespiritoRGB también lo va a felicitar por todos los asesinatos e inyectar insulina a los bebes???

@ChespiritoRGB are you also going to congratulate him for all the murders and for injecting babies with insulin???

And what happens in Chile? On March 2010, Global Voices published a post by Silvia Viñas about the use of the social network:

Por primera vez en Chile, usuarios de internet pueden seguir al presidente y al gabinete de ministros por Twitter; el presidente Sebastián Piñera y todo su gabinete han abierto sus cuentas de Twitter. Como se esperaba, los usuarios chilenos de las redes sociales se han dado cuenta, y han comentado sobre lo que esperan de esta nueva manera de interacción con sus lideres.

For the first time in Chile, Internet users can follow the President and the Cabinet of ministers on Twitter; President Sebastián Piñera and his entire Cabinet opened their Twitter accounts. As expected, Chilean social media users have taken notice, commenting on their expectations for this new way of interacting with their leaders.

Chilean President Sebastian Piñera‘s Twitter account (@sebastianpinera) looks very interactive as well, as we can notice in this chat with Hector Mario (@conHectorcl) where he comments on his family life:

@sebastianpinera señor presidente esta bien su nieto….

@sebastianpinera Mr. President, is your grandson ok….

And the Chilean head of state answers:

@conHectorcl unos puntos en la cabeza, pero aquí está corriendo y jugando con sus hermanos. Gracias.

@conHectorcl some stitches on his head, but now he's running and playing with his brothers. Thank you.

But netizens do not hesitate in replying when he tweets announcements like this:

Hoy lanzamos proyecto #Chilentrena: construiremos 30 polideportivos en 3 años. Los primeros, este año, en Temuco y Valparaíso

Today, we launched #Chilentrena project: we will build 30 multisport facilities in 3 years. The first ones, this year, in Temuco and Valparaiso

Lucho Stark (@luchostark) suggests to the Chilean president:

@sebastianpinera Y por k no guardan esa plata para la educación? k mal uso de recursos… La educación deberia ser lo primero!

Why don't you save the money for education? Terrible waste of resources… Education should be first!

Global Voices translator and author Milton Ramirez made a summary [es] of journalist Christian Espinoza's [es] work on the “presence of who we think are personalities on the Internet and Twitter”, where he ranks Latin American Presidents according to their presence in the social network.

It seems that towards suggestions and replies, not all the heads of state are willing to interact, but regarding personal issues, the situation changes. Are they closer than ever thanks to Twitter?

Thumbnail image shows President of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, and the Presidente of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Image by Presidencia Argentina, available in the public domain.

4 comments

  • The Latin American countries are setting an example to the rest of the world on using new technologies to create a dialogue with their citizens. Latin American governments were cited in the Dept of State blog DipNote as being innovative in the way they are becoming more transparent (http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/site/entry/cwa_open_government and http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/site/entry/clinton_open_government_partnership).

    While this type of 2-way conversation is in its infancy, I hope that the conversations can develop into concrete action by governments to engage its citizens in decision-making.

    Mantener el buen trabajo!

  • JZA

    Interesting how Barack Obama has it’s twitter experience as he tweeted his large following to vote for a strategy to raise the debt ceiling. Unfortunately some claim this backfired and actually caused the opposite reaction by either unfollowing him or voting against it.

  • […] President Rafael Correa has joined the ranks of Latin American presidents on Twitter. Latin America News Dispatch reports: “The account is named @MashiRafael, which means […]

  • […] Twitter and Latin American Presidents: Are They Closer to Us? Viva la Vida @CKFArgentina Cristina, you&#39re going to turn out to be a grandma! Amazing! Welcome to the club! Please congratulate Maximo and his wife on my behalf! Life is lovely! Ay compadre Presidente Lugo, allá viene La Vinotinto!! A jugar Futbol pues! … Read much more on Worldwide Voices On-line […]

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