Caracas – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday renamed Angel Falls, the world’s tallest waterfall, saying it should be called by its indigenous name Kerepakupai Meru.
Angel Falls are named after a US explorer Jimmie Angel, who in the 1930s crashed his plane onto the table-top mountain where the roughly kilometre-long drop begins.
“This is ours, long before Angel arrived there,” Chavez said on his weekly television show, in front of a large painted mural of the falls and surrounding jungle.
“This is indigenous property, ours, aborigine.” He said thousands of people had seen the falls before Jimmie Angel “discovered” them.
The falls are in the Canaima National Park in the Gran Sabana region in south-eastern Venezuela, near borders with Brazil and Guyana. About 15 000 Pemon Indians live in the region.
Chavez initially said the waterfall was to be called Cheru-Meru, also spelled as Cherun Meru, but corrected himself when his daughter pointed out that was the name of a smaller waterfall in the same region.
He spent several minutes practising the name Kerepakupai, before declaring he had mastered it.
The socialist Chavez said the remote falls normally reached by plane and boat were only visited by the wealthy, and called on a publicly owned airline to fly poor Venezuelans to the site.
The unique landscape of sheer table-top mountains known as tepuis juts out of the rainforest and inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World.
“Kerepakupai merú”, means “waterfall of the deepest place”, in Pemon language.