World Bulletin / News Desk
Venezuela's verbose Hugo Chavez is reaching out to voters with tweets sent as text messages to even the most basic mobile phones as the socialist president fights a vigorous opposition campaign in the Twitter-mad country ahead of an Oct. 7 election.
Chavez has had three cancer operations in the last year.
He has had to focus on making regular state TV appearances - usually for several hours at a time, almost every day of late - and pontificating via his @chavezcandanga Twitter account, which has nearly 3.2 million followers.
The president's online persona is an important part of his team's strategy in an election battle that is shaping into the toughest fight of his political life.
Spurred by an explosion in Twitter's popularity in Venezuela and annoyed at what he said was the opposition's domination of local electronic media, Chavez began tweeting in early 2010.
His account quickly overtook one belonging to Globovision, the main opposition TV station, and he soon said he had needed to hire 200 people to help him read and respond to what he called an "avalanche" of messages from supporters, requests for help, and complaints about faulty services and corruption.
Delighted with his cyber success, he even urged Cuba's Fidel Castro and Bolivia's Evo Morales to start tweeting too.
The three men are arguably Latin America's most vocal left-wing critics of what they denounce as the U.S. "empire."
Venezuela's most followed
On Sunday, Capriles is due to lead a large march through the capital Caracas in what the diverse opposition coalition hopes will be its latest show of strength and unity behind its candidate.
Most opinion polls still give Chavez a double-digit lead, and on Friday he launched a series of campaign events describing his recovery as "a miracle" and seeking to capitalize on the deep emotional ties that even his fiercest critics concede he shares with Venezuela's poor majority.
The SMS service was unveiled late on Friday and is aimed at the many Venezuelans who have no easy access to the Web and would like to receive tweets by "el comandante" via text ',tmessage.
"The initiative will (also) let people without Twitter accounts receive the messages," said state-run news agency AVN.
Supporters who register at www.chavezcandanga.org.ve can choose to receive his tweets in real time, or avoid being woken up by choosing just those he posts between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Chavez's number of followers - many of whom must have signed up at least partly out of curiosity about how the former soldier famed for his hours-long speeches works with a 140-character limit - currently puts him at 179th in the world, just behind Jamaican-American hip hop star Sean Kingston.
By comparison, the top spot is held by singer Lady Gaga with more than 27 million followers. Capriles, on the other hand, has 1 million - about a third as many as Venezuela's president.
"Good morning, Patriotic World!" Chavez said in one fairly typical tweet on Saturday, adding that he was on his way to lead what would be another lengthy televised ceremony at a military base in Caracas. "Long live our Soldiers!"
Berlin sends military experts to Erbil to explore ways of better supporting peshmerga troops against ISIL
Opposition commander says more sophisticated weapons needed to defeat ISIL in Syrian Kurdish town Kobani
Israeli authorities closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex – for the first time since 1967 – and gunned down a Palestinian suspected of killing a rabbi
Tambuwal defected from the ruling party to the opposition on Wednesday
Hickox, who tested negative for the virus after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, said that she plans to take the issue to court if Maine did not lift the quarantine
Eyewitnesses said scores of Palestinian students had hurled stones and empty bottles at an Israeli position near Birzeit, a town in northern Ramallah.
The 50 detainees were mainly Syrian but included nine Lebanese and one Palestinian, an army statement said.
Sunday's clashes raised fears of violent youths with no political agenda joining forces with a racist group.
The controversial government-proposed amendment would increase to three the maximum number of five-year presidential terms available to a single individual, opening the door for Compaore – in power since 1987 – to seek reelection next year.
Ministry spokesman Al-Bozum said that some of the names cited by the Egyptian media belonged to residents of the occupied West Bank who had never crossed into Gaza.
With no outright majority, Nidaa Tounes will seek to form a coalition with partners in negotiations that will likely last weeks before a new government is set up
Harun P. travelled to Syria at the end of September 2013 and became a member of the group, which trained and armed him, the prosecutor's statement said.
The Free Syrian Army is critical in the fight against ISIL, Syrian National Coalition leader Hadi al-Bahra said
The Islamic Republic has repeatedly complained of alleged covert U.S. and Israeli attempts to cripple its nuclear programme.
Special rapporteur expresses concern over conflicts with ethnic rebels, situation of Rohingya, media reforms, next year’s election
Twenty-six trucks loaded with construction supplies – including four carrying cement – entered the coastal strip