Chavez hires hundreds to help him reply on Twitter

The Latin American country’s loquacious leftist leader  launched himself onto the micro-blogging site last week to  counter opponents who have increasingly been using it to pour  scorn on his government.

His account, @chavezcandanga, drew nearly a quarter of a  million followers — many of them presumably curious whether  the former paratrooper famed for his hours-long speeches could  adapt to Twitter’s 140-character limit.

But now he has been overwhelmed with responses and has  hired 200 people to help him respond to the more than 50,000  messages he says he has received in just nine days.

“This is more work for me because I can’t stop replying,”  he said during a lengthy televised speech late on Friday. “So  I’ve taken a decision, such is the avalanche of messages.”

Twitter has seen an explosive rise in use in Venezuela,  where there are now more than 200,000 active accounts. The  president’s profile is the second most-followed in the country  after Globovision, a television channel that opposes him.

Chavez said on Friday that half the messages he received  were from supporters who approved of his policies, while others  were requests for help or complaints about faulty services.

But he said not all of his “followers” wished him well, and  he had calculated that 18.4 per cent of responses were hostile.

“I send jokes to some of them,” he said, prompting cheers  from his audience of party officials. “That makes me laugh.”

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