Latin American presidents love Twitter - maybe too much

Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:57am EDT
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By Brian Winter

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - When a million angry Argentines flooded the streets earlier this month to protest her government, President Cristina Fernandez decided to post a message on Twitter.

And another. And then another.

"Yes, I'm a bit stubborn, and I'm also old. But in the end, it's lucky to arrive at old age, isn't it?" one tweet read. She also mused about a 19th century fresco in her "gorgeous" palace, and the merits of a state-run literacy program.

At the end of the day, Fernandez had sent 61 tweets in a nine-hour period - prolific even by the standards of Latin America, where presidents and other leading politicians have embraced social media with a zeal unmatched anywhere else.

Their love for Twitter, in particular, has given millions of voyeurs a real-time window into policymaking - and, often, their leaders' most intimate thoughts.

Yet it has also fueled debate on whether some are guilty of "oversharing" - making politics more polarized, confrontations more personal, and potentially making the leaders themselves look awkward when they post about chats with strangers in a bathroom, for example, as Fernandez also did this month.

"Everybody who uses Twitter knows that sometimes you write something and push the send button without thinking enough about it. That's dangerous in politics ... and we've seen many examples of it," said Alan Clutterbuck, head of Fundacion RAP, a group based in Buenos Aires that seeks to improve the civility of political discourse.

"We should hold our political leaders to a different standard," he said. "You see a message that says 'I'm having a sandwich,' and you think: 'Who cares?'"   Continued...

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro meets Venezuela's First Lady Cilia Flores in Havana, in this picture provided by Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro via Twitter on April 27, 2013. REUTERS/Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro via Twitter/Handout