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Almost a year ago, the controversial Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez encouraged the Bolivian President Evo Morales and Cuban political leader Fidel Castro to join him on Twitter. The unorthodox invitation came after Chavez himself had joined Twitter under the name @chavezcandaga. Curiously enough some might say, since only 30% of the Venezuelan people have internet access. His move also took some by surprise as he had previously described Twitter as a potential “tool of terror”. Nonetheless, in two days Chavez had gained more than 100.000 followers and the notoriously verbose leader, who once spoke for 8 hours on a television show, was so excited about the medium that he encouraged his fellow South and Central American leaders to join.
Interestingly enough, the former communist revolutionary took Chavez up on the offer and signed up under the username @reflexionfidel. The 84-year-old Castro stepped down as Cuban president in 2006 – first temporarily and then permanently – ceding power to his younger brother Raul Castro, age 79. Fidel remains the head of the Communist Party and often publishes opinion pieces, called ‘Reflections’, in Cuba’s state-run news media. His Twitter account is said to tweet excerpts from his frequent musing on world affairs.
While Castro has admitted to being a news junky who spends hours reading off of the internet, he does not send the tweets out personally, according to a story in the state-run Cubadebate web site. Instead, it is the members of the Cubadebate staff who select passages from the revolutionary’s writings and publishes them. The account has sent out more than 1.750 tweets with Castro’s thoughts, including his fears that the world is heading for nuclear Armageddon, and his warnings that NATO is planning to invade Libya.
“The U.S. and NATO can’t resist taking advantage of the conflict in Libya to promote military intervention,” read a tweet two weeks ago, quoting from an opinion piece Castro wrote a few days earlier, according to Associated Press. “In every U.S. war, like Vietnam, the most cynical justifications and measures prevailed,” read another posted the following day.
The followers of the former Cuban president has past 100.000 people which the government has said makes it the first official Cuban-themed Twitter account to break that threshold. Despite the impressive numbers, however, the government’s claim that Castro is the most followed Cuban Twitterer is far from undisputed. The Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, known internationally for her critical portrayal of live in Cuba under the Communist rule, does also have an account and her followers have reached 109.000 but since Sanchez is considered a dissident, the government’s conclusion does not seem far fetched.
Neither of them has much competition in Cuba, where less than 2% of the Island’s population uses the internet – making it the lowest penetration rate in the Western Hemisphere. But by reaching the 100.000 people mark, Castro has entered the realm of several other global figures who reach out through Twitter. His friend Hugo Chavez has reached nearly 1.3 million followers, a year after promoting the medium, while the British Prime Minister David Cameron has nearly 1.8 million – and President Barack Obama close to 7 million.