When ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez publicly anointed Nicolas Maduro as his desired successor a year ago, Chavez apparently forgot to hand over one element of his power: his more than 4 million Twitter followers.
Chavez’s account, @chavezcandanga, has not posted a new message since Feb. 18, 2013, about two weeks before the populist leader’s death on March 5, 2013. The account retains Twitter’s coveted blue checkmark for “verified” accounts and, if anything, has gained followers since Chavez’s death. A triumphant press release issued by the Venezuelan Embassy in the U.S. a day after that final tweet noted that the account had “surpassed four million followers” on Feb. 18. Today the account registers more than 4.1 million followers.
In a country in the midst of a bruising and very public fight for political power, control of a powerful megaphone like Chavez’s Twitter account would seem to be a valuable prize. A report in mid-2013 put the total active Twitter users in Venezuela at 3 million.