Trump hardly the 1st world leader to bash media on Twitter
BUENOS AIRES | It’s late at night at the residence, and the president is tweeting attacks on the mainstream media: Journalists publish nothing but “daily lies, pathetic contradiction and permanent disaster,” she writes.
“She” — because it’s not Donald Trump at the keyboard, but former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez.
Turns out that long before Mr. Trump brought his feisty Twitter style to the White House, his South American counterparts — Ms. Fernandez, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Venezuelan populist Hugo Chavez among them — had already mastered the art of making friends, but mostly enemies, in 140 characters.
According to Twiplomacy.com, Latin American politics and social media sites such as Twitter are fast friends. Mr. Pena Nieto has been tweeting since 2007, and Bolivian President Evo Morales last year ended his holdout as the last Latin American leader without a Twitter account. Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who succeeded Ms. Fernandez in 2015, is rated the most active leader in the world on Snapchat and boasts over 630,000 followers on Instagram.
More than 9 out of 10 governments in the region are on Facebook, one of the highest regional participation rates in the world. Mr. Pena Nieto, Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales all have large and active Twitter followings. Ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff regularly keeps her 5.2 million Twitter followers up to date on the failings of the men who drove her from office and her efforts to rehabilitate her reputation.
As much as leftist as Mr. Trump is a man of the right, Ms. Fernandez shares with the U.S. president a penchant for resorting to Twitter to reject the “mainstream media.”
Her trademark 2014 “disaster” tweet was one of dozens aimed at her country’s leading newspaper, La Nacion, which she derided as a “factory of lies.”
“It didn’t cause much amusement [in the newsroom],” said Mariano De Vedia, a La Nacion political analyst. “But the former president’s attacks on newspapers and journalists weren’t limited to social networks.”
Those networks, notably Twitter, did, however, provide Ms. Fernandez with the ideal tool to go around pesky reporters and take her populist message directly to voters. She continues to use that strategy as she tries to mount a political comeback amid several explosive — and widely covered — corruption trials.
An early adopter, Ms. Fernandez signed up for Twitter just four months after Chavez, the anti-U.S. Venezuelan firebrand who started tweeting in April 2010.
With his screen name “chavezcandanga” — which combines his name with a slang term that roughly translates to “rebellious” or “disruptive” — Chavez set the tone for presidential tweeting from the get-go.
In the 1,823 messages he sent his more than 4 million followers before his 2013 death, he used the account to promote his socialist agenda, interact with citizens, exchange compliments with Ms. Fernandez and other populist allies — and, of course, fiercely attack his foes.
“Sanctions … imposed by the imperialist gringo government? They are welcome, Mr. Obama,” he taunted in May 2011, four years before the U.S. president inaugurated his official @POTUS account. (Mr. Obama had been tweeting at @WhiteHouse and @ BarackObama before the official account was launched in 2015.)
Mr. Chavez, like Mr. Trump, mixed the personal with the presidential on his Twitter feed, sending orders to his lieutenants or chronicling his enjoyment of a “tremendous bowl of fish soup” for lunch in 2012. He even engaged in some memorable feuds via Twitter, prompting an angry response to one posting by then-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
“I ask President Hugo Chavez to stop being a coward hurling insults remotely,” Mr. Uribe tweeted. Chavez happily ignored the request.