London: Chavez gets a hero’s welcome


Richard Moore

Original source URL:,,1774993,00.html

Revolution in the Camden air as Chávez - with amigo Ken - gets a hero's welcome

· Show of solidarity for Venezuelan president
· Three-hour speech wins over 800-strong crowd
Duncan Campbell and Jonathan Steele
Monday May 15, 2006

He has been called a terrorist by Washington but 
for three and a half hours yesterday in London he 
could do no wrong. An adoring audience of British 
left-wingers and the Latin American diaspora 
cheered, clapped, sang and laughed as Venezuelan 
president Hugo Chávez denounced President Bush 
and capitalism and praised Ken Livingstone and 
the Pope.

The Camden centre in north London is usually home 
to trade fairs, conferences and school exams, but 
yesterday it throbbed with calls for a new world 

"We love you," shouted a woman at the 800-strong 
gathering, which President Chávez had been 
invited to attend by London's mayor. "We love you 
very much," responded the president in unexpected 
English. To applause, he told them: "I was 
remembering my English classes in school. I 
remember very much my English classes - 'Do you 
want a coffee? Do you want a glass of milk'?"

During his marathon address, with occasional 
pauses to ask his "amigo" Ken whether his time 
was up, he managed to refer to everyone from 
George Bernard Shaw to Rosa Luxemburg, Pythagoras 
to Thomas Jefferson, CLR James to his mother. 
Reminding his audience it was mother's day in 
Venezuela and that his speech was going out live 
on his weekly programme, he even managed to send 
a message to his mum.

"Sometimes I'm a terrorist according to 
Washington or a guy who does military coups," 
said President Chávez, in front of a backdrop of 
his country's red, blue and yellow flag. "But all 
we did was participate in a revolutionary 
movement, which is what we are doing now." He 
went through a history of revolution in Latin 
America and described how his hero, Simon 
Bolivar, had visited London in 1810.

He said: "I am a Catholic and a Christian and a 
very committed Christian and I was talking to the 
Pope about the struggle against poverty - I call 
it Christ's cause." Then he was talking about the 
first time he had met Fidel Castro.

He won applause from a large contingent of 
banner-bearing women when he said that one of the 
features of capitalism is that it excludes and 
exploits women.

On the platform with him were many leading 
figures of the left. He pointed out Tariq Ali, 
and made him show the crowd a satirical poster he 
had portraying Chávez, Castro and Bolivia's 
president, Evo Morales, as the Pirates of the 
Caribbean. He attacked the administration in 
Washington as "the greatest threat to this planet 
... Imagine they launch this attack on Iran. 
They've got it planned. If the US attack Iran, 
people in England who drive cars will have to 
park them. Oil will be $100 a barrel."

The man who survived a coup in 2002 - "planned in 
the Pentagon and the White House" - told the 
audience to huge applause: "I know there are 
plans to kill me. It doesn't matter. It won't 
stop me."

Last time he visited England, he had tea with the 
Queen and met Tony Blair but there was no mention 
of the prime minister yesterday although he has 
referred to him in the past as a "pawn of 
imperialism." But he did repeatedly say: "We are 
socialists. We are building it; it comes from our 
soul; it has to be imbued with humanism. If you 
can't love, you can't be a socialist."

In the audience was Bianca Jagger who said she 
had come to "listen and learn ... I'm Nicaraguan 
so I am interested in the politics of Latin 
America and I have one or two questions I would 
like to ask him." She said it was important for 
people in Europe to understand the motivations of 
President Chávez and President Morales with 
regard to their energy supplies. "You need to 
understand the history of the oil companies in 
Latin America," she said. "They left a terrible 
environmental disaster behind them and they have 
never been accountable for it."

The Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, who was on the 
platform, said: "I am very interested in what 
they are doing in Venezuela in terms of lessening 
the gap between rich and poor. Maybe the British 
government could learn something from that. Blair 
and the government should recognise which way the 
wind is blowing in Latin America."

Bob Neill, Leader of the London Assembly 
Conservatives, will be meeting a delegation of 
Venezuelan dissidents at City Hall today. Mr 
Neill said: "They will be able to relay 
first-hand experiences of violence and oppression 
in Venezuela."

President Chávez had arrived in London from a 
summit in Vienna of leaders from the EU and Latin 
America and Caribbean nations. This week he will 
be going to Algeria and Libya. In Vienna, he had 
said: "The final hours of empire have arrived. 
Now we have to say to the empire 'We are not 
afraid of you, you are a paper tiger'." He 
suggested the US was as doomed as a pig on its 
way to the slaughterhouse. He also wanted to 
provide cheap heating oil for poor Europeans. "I 
want to humbly offer support to the poorest 
people who do not have resources for central 
heating in winter and make sure that support 

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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