Trump hardly the 1st world leader to bash me­dia on Twit­ter

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY FRED­ERIC PUGLIE

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.

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