Page last updated at 23:43 GMT, Sunday, 9 May 2010 00:43 UK

Chavez tops Twitter in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez
Mr Chavez has to limit himself to 140 characters on Twitter

The Twitter account of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has become the most popular in Venezuela, with more than a quarter of a million followers.

Mr Chavez says he has hired 200 people to read through the many messages he receives on the social networking site.

He says more than 18% of the messages he receives are hostile.

He deals with the negative messages by laughing them off or sending back jokes. "I don't care," he said, "It's a form of contact with the world."

Flood of tweets

Mr Chavez's account beat that of opposition TV channel Globovision into second place only 10 days after he first set it up.

But opposition politicians have been critical of the time the president spends on the site.

Opposition politician Juan Jose Molina said that instead of tweeting, the president should be "more dedicated to solving the country's problems".

Mr Chavez admitted that the flood of messages was such that he could no longer cope with it on his own.

He said he had created a team of 200 people to help him answer the more than 50,000 messages he has received since opening the account.

The BBC's Will Grant in Caracas says many poor Venezuelans are finding the idea that they can petition the president directly through the social networking account very attractive.

The president's communications team predicts the number of followers will rise to one million by the end of the month.

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