After Hugo Chavez spent two months out of the public eye for cancer surgery in Cuba, the Venezuelan government hailed his homecoming on Monday and said the president had achieved another milestone – 4 million followers on Twitter.
The 58-year-old flew back from Havana before dawn and was taken to a military hospital. No new details were given on his health, and there were no images of his arrival. Officials say his condition remains delicate.
The normally loquacious socialist leader, who is struggling to speak as he breathes through a tracheal tube, took to Twitter with a passion back in April 2010, tweeting regularly and encouraging other leftist Latin American leaders to do likewise.
His @chavezcandanga account quickly drew a big mixed following of fans, critics and others just curious to see how his famously long speeches and fiery anti-U.S. invective would work within the social media network’s 140-character limit.
But as he fought the cancer and underwent weeks of gruelling chemotherapy and radiation therapy, he began to tweet less and less frequently, before stopping altogether on November 1.
Early on Monday morning, he made his reappearance.
“It was 4:30, 5 a.m. He got to his room and surprised everyone: rat-tat-tat, he sent three or four messages, and at that moment fireworks began to go off around the country,” Vice President Nicolas Maduro said in a televised cabinet meeting.
During the day, Maduro added, the president’s number of followers had shot up to well over four million.
“It’s incredible, in just a few hours … he’s the second most-followed president in the world (after Barack Obama), and the first if we make the comparison by per capita,” he said.
Obama has more than 27 million Twitter followers and is No. 5 most followed globally. Chavez is Twitter’s No. 190 globally.