December 20, 2009 / 7:49 PM / 9 years ago

Venezuela Chavez renames world's tallest waterfall

* Angel Falls named for explorer Jimmie Angel

* Now to be called by indigenous name, Kerepakupai Meru

CARACAS, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s 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 U.S. explorer Jimmie Angel, who in the 1930s crashed his plane onto the table-top mountain where the roughly 3,280-feet (1 kilometer) 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 southeastern 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 practicing 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."

The 2009 animated film "Up" is also partially based on the Canaima area.

Chavez, who says his government is revolutionary, has in the past changed the formal name of Venezuela, redesigned the flag and created a new time zone for the South American country.

(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel and Fabian Cambero, editing by Vicki Allen)




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