Waterfall puts Chavez in a froth

Click to follow
The Independent US

Being angry about the devil is a standard refrain for Hugo Chavez. In 2006 he declared that George Bush was Lucifer incarnate, and just last week he told the Copenhagen climate summit that in Barack Obama's presence he could "still smell sulphur". At home, though, the devil has been ousted by a holier enemy: the Venezuelan leader has turned his ire on a dead American Angel.

The Angel in question is Jimmie Angel, and the cause of Chavez's irritation is the waterfall named after the aviator. In 1933, Angel became the first man to fly over the falls, the highest in the world.

But as President Chavez pointed out on his regular weekend television show, the indigenous Pemon Indian population had a name for them long before Angel turned up.

"How could we accept this idea that the falls were discovered by a guy who came here from the US in a plane?" Chavez asked. "If we do that, that would be like accepting that nobody was living here." The falls, he declared, should instead be known as Cherun Muru. And that was that – or nearly.

A moment later, Chavez's daughter Maria slipped her father a note pointing out that, actually, Cherun Muru was the name of a smaller waterfall nearby. Apparently unphased, the president declared the name should be Kerepakupai Meru, or "waterfall of the deepest place".

After a few minutes practising the correct name, Chavez moved on. Whether the name change will catch on remains to be seen. Yet by Chavez's standards it is a relatively small alteration. In the past he has changed Venezuela's formal name, retitled a mountain, and redesigned the national flag – as well as inventing a new time zone.