Britain's left-wing 'aristocracy' greet their hero Chavez

He has been described as a fearless champion of the oppressed poor against the corrupt rich and their American sponsors. But also as a dangerous demagogue subsidising totalitarian regimes with his country's oil wells. Yesterday in London, however, there was no doubt about what the hundreds who had thronged to see Hugo Chavez thought of him.

Around a thousand people packed into Camden Town Hall to witness a mixture of a Latin American populist rally, an evangelical meeting and a football match. The chanting, foot-stomping crowd thunderously proclaimed: "Ooh ah, Chavez no se va," as the President of Venezuela spoke.

The cry ("Chavez will not go") which originates from the streets of Caracas, and the barrios of those fiercely loyal to Chavez, came when he described attempts to overthrow him by, he claims, the US through their Venezuelan proxies.

And yesterday in the People's Republic of Camden the villains remained very much President George W Bush, his acolyte Tony Blair, big business and the forces of reaction.

Old Labour was present recalling its radical past with MP Jeremy Corbyn and Tariq Ali. Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who had invited President Chavez, was in the chair.

Banners of trade unions, human rights groups and the CND hung next to each other on the walls. There were also activists like Bianca Jagger and civil rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Mr Corbyn, never knowingly one to agree with Tony Blair and his cabinet, said New Labour had a lot to learn from Venezuela. Nicaraguan born Ms Jagger, said President Chavez was leading the fight against imperialism among a new generation of South American leaders.

Chavez was not meeting Mr Blair, whom he has called 'the main ally of Hitler' because of his friendship with Mr Bush, or his cabinet. He has no protocol reasons to do so as this is a private visit. He will, however, see around 80 labour MPs and a handful of Lib Dems today. William Hague, as shadow foreign secretary, is also said to be seeking an audience with El Presidente.

In a previous visit to London in April 1998, Senor Chavez has declared himself a convert to Mr Blair's Third Way. He was given tea with the Queen and dinner with John Prescott. Since then Mr Blair's popularity has waned, at least domestically, while President Chavez made this month's Time magazine's list of the worlds 100 most influential people.

The Venezuelan president has been building a Latin American open "axis of good" against "American hegemony". He has replaced the Soviet Union as the supplier of cut-price oil to Cuba, helped pay off Argentina's US2.3 billion debt to the IMF, and provided free medical aid to citizens of neighbouring countries.

This is part of a European tour by the Venezuelan leader. He has met the Pope in the Vatican and arrived in London after a rally in Vienna. Senor Chavez made his entry into the hall in North London yesterday one hour and 24 minutes late, apologising for his Venezuelan timing. A stocky figure in a charcoal grey suit, white shirt and red tie, the President was greeted with tumultuous ovation.

Mr Livingstone described the President as 'a beacon of democracy and social progress in Latin America' who has won his electoral popularity not least for introducing effective help and education services.

For the next couple of hours President Chavez, speaking without notes, sometimes rambling, presented his vision of the world ­ the need for socialism, peace and justice, and the threat to these precious values from the 'genocidal and perverted' Bush administration.

He quoted Rosa Luxembourg and Pythagoras, Karl Marx and George Bernard Shaw. The biggest cheer came when he recalled the words of the former Mexican president: "Poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States.''

Senor Chavez warned that Washington was even now planning an attack on Iran. This, he said, would "launch a conflagration". He continued: " We do not know who in the region would first reach for the nuclear bomb."

The President bitterly attacked America's foreign policy. "At this moment they are probably bombing Baghdad. How many children will die before the day ends? Why do they have to die?''

The President maintained that if the British government have the courage to stand up to the US it too will be targeted. "That is the fatal obsession of the US, the great lover becomes the great enemy.''

President Chavez claimed that there were plots 'well developed' in Washington to assassinate him. "I know there are plans to kill me, but I really don't care. It will not stop me.

"We may not live to see our dream of socialism come true. But the younger people will see this wonderful, luminous world, believe me."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
Could Mrs Brown's Boys take the lead for second year running?
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all