Few political leaders in power today have harnessed the power of the media as effectively -- and as personally -- as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. From the moment he took office, Chávez deployed himself across existing platforms, using every available communications resource to present himself, his ideology and his policies directly to the public. Now, as his idiosyncratic rule runs up against limitations imposed by serious health problems, Chávez has found that the latest in modern communications technology, social media, is a most useful tool.
Chávez is becoming the Twitter President, issuing a continuous stream of 140-character opinions and dictates that allow him to continue micromanaging the country even as he convalesces from cancer surgery and receives follow-up chemotherapy treatments. Social media has allowed Chávez to take time off without going away.
Taking his case directly to the masses is nothing new for the Venezuelan leader. For years Chávez has filled the radio and television airwaves and produced regular columns in the printed media. His radio and television show "Aló, Presidente" went on the air just weeks after he came to power in 1999, and since then it has become a unique blend of showmanship and lawmaking. With his entire cabinet required to appear, the show starts Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and can go on for as long as six or seven hours. Chávez expounds on all manner of issues, questions his top officials and has even ordered a military mobilization to the Colombian border during the live show.