Cuba’s Miguel Díaz-Canel is the latest world leader to open Twitter account

Screen shot of Miguel  Díaz-Canel’s Twitter account on Oct.  12, 2018.
Screen shot of Miguel Díaz-Canel’s Twitter account on Oct. 12, 2018.

Cuba’s Miguel Díaz-Canel, who this week became the latest world leader to open a Twitter account, had accumulated more than 25,800 followers by Friday afternoon and spawned a few copycat accounts with similar Twitter handles.

Díaz-Canel, president of Cuba’s Council of State and Council of Ministers, currently follows just 16 accounts. Those belong to various Cuban officials and media organizations and two of his close allies, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Bolivian President Evo Morales.

An article in Granma, the news outlet of Cuba’s Communist Party, that announced Díaz-Canel had become the first Cuban president with a Twitter account said that “new times imply new channels of communication.” There is a Twitter account maintained in the name of Raúl Castro, the Communist Party chief, but it is a collection of his speeches and news stories about him that have appeared in Cubadebate, a Cuban website.

The launch of Díaz-Canel’s account comes as Cuba slowly enters the Internet age. Recent government statistics show that Cuba now has 755 public Wi-Fi hotspots and 211 public navigation rooms, and that 51,728 Cubans have home Internet connections.

Díaz-Canel launched his account Wednesday, the 150th anniversary of the start of the fight for Cuba’s independence. He sent out his first tweet from La Demajagua, the sugar plantation of Carlos Manuel Céspedes and the site of the Cry of Yara, the declaration of Cuban Independence, in 1868.

The Cuban leader had promised at the close of a meeting of the Cuban Journalists Union in July that he would be on Twitter by year’s end, and he quickly showed that he may develop a social media habit.

He also tweeted from the Isle of Youth and the provinces of Mayabeque and Pinar del Río, where he toured damage caused by Michael, a tropical storm when it passed through Cuban territory. By Friday, Díaz-Canel had tweeted or retweeted 64 times.

He still has a lot of catching up to do with President Donald Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account, which shows more than 39,000 tweets and has 55.1 million followers.

According to Burson-Marsteller’s annual Twiplomacy report, which came out in July, 951 heads of state or government have Twitter accounts. Of those, 372 are personal accounts and 579 are institutional accounts.

Cuban officials also warned that some impostor accounts had been created for Díaz-Canel. One of them had attracted 452 followers. The Cuban leader’s real account is the one that shows a check mark, indicating that it’s been verified by Twitter.

Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi