The news of Hugo Chavez’s death on Tuesday lit up Twitter with R.I.P. messages and jokes aimed at actor Sean Penn, who was friendly with the Venezuelan president.
Chavez, whose Twitter account
has more than 4 million followers, died after battling lung cancer. He was 58.
By 5 p.m. ET, a number of terms related to Chavez—including “Sean Penn” and “Castro,” in reference to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro—were among the trending topics on Twitter.
U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, a Democrat from the South Bronx, made headlines after Chavez’s passing when he tweeted this R.I.P. message:
Serrano had worked with Chavez and his oil rich nation to bring heating gas to the needy in his district in the Bronx. By offering condolences to Chavez, Serrano joined a host of others on Twitter, including the often controversial pop star M.I.A., whose tweet about the South American leader drew more than 600 retweets.
Other Twitter users were less sympathetic to the Venezuelan president. Chavez, who was at odds with the U.S., was elected president in 1999, sparking the ascent of leftist leaders throughout Latin America. In recent years, he drew sharp criticism from the U.S. as well as Venezuelans—particularly journalists—for curtailing Democratic freedoms in the nation.
Echoing this point, and mentioning Sean Penn, senior Huffington Post
writer Radley Balko tweeted:
A story on Reason.com
posted shortly after Chavez’s death argues that his presidency was a “disaster for the Venezuelan people.”