He's the new hero of the left - a socialist leader who is tackling poverty in Venezuela while leading the Latin American backlash against 'the empire' of George Bush. But what is Hugo Chávez really like? And how does he feel about being portrayed as a dictator by much of the British press? Jonathan Steele and Duncan Campbell meet him.
Chávez's critics have also made their voices heard. An anti-Chávez website, www.vcrisis.com, has also been running lengthy attacks on the visit, accusing him of human rights abuses, of locking up political opponents, and making a weapon out of la lista (the list) of the several million people who signed petitions calling for a referendum to recall him from power in 2004. They claim signatories suffer discrimination now. There has also been some dissent from people who support what he is trying to achieve. Nicaragua-born Bianca Jagger, for instance, criticised Chávez for supporting the Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega, even though Ortega has made what she sees as an unholy alliance with the rightwing in his country in this autumn's elections.
[I have stopped buying any Citgo product, years ago. A small protest I know, but nonetheless...Editor]
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