Monday, January 07, 2008

Naomi Campbell Interviews President Hugo Chavez

Naomi Campbell interviews 'rebel angel' Hugo Chavez

LONDON (AFP) — British supermodel Naomi Campbell has interviewed Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, describing him as a "rebel angel" who is unafraid to speak his mind but poses no threat to democracy.

Campbell was granted an audience with the outspoken left-wing leader as part of her new brief as contributing editor for British men's lifestyle magazine GQ, interviewing leading figures from politics, sport and entertainment.

She wrote in the article, out Thursday but extracts of which were released in advance, that she was aware her choice of subject would be controversial, but insisted she did not go to Venezuela for political reasons.

"I'd always heard Hugo Chavez was a people's president and I wanted to see if that was true... I didn't want to judge Chavez, or probe him for his political views, even though he gave them freely," she wrote.

"I simply went to interview Hugo Chavez the man," she added. The catwalk star also said she wanted to get him to donate to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which she represents, and see some of his social programmes.

Campbell said the Venezuelan leader -- who in November was told to "shut up" by Spain's King Juan Carlos I -- was forthright and "fearless, but not threatening or unreasonable".

Venezuelans also seemed happier than her last visit 10 years ago for a Sports Illustrated magazine photoshoot, she added.

"I hope Venezuela's relations with America will improve in the immediate future. Whatever the future holds, for me his role will always be that of a rebel angel," she said.

During her time in Venezuela, she was treated to Chavez's familiar rhetoric against the United States and in particular President George W. Bush.

Chavez -- who once described Bush as "the devil" during a United Nations General Assembly address -- said the US president was "completely crazy" and Condoleezza Rice was "secretary of state of a genocidal government".

Asked if he thought Bush wanted to kill him, he replied: "I think he does. Him and his companions."

Elsewhere, Chavez found time to defend Venezuela's human rights record and vaunt his country's oil reserves, but also gave his views on less weighty matters like fashion, pop music and the British royal family.

Cuba's Fidel Castro was the world's most stylish leader, he said ("His uniform is impeccable. His boots are polished. His beard is elegant"), he was aware of the newly-reformed Spice Girls and admired Britain's Prince Charles.

He also refused to rule out following Russian President Vladimir Putin's example and posing for topless photographs. "Why not? Touch my muscles," he reportedly told the supermodel.

Naomi Campbell Interviews Hugo Chavez

Updated:12:17, Monday January 07, 2008

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez believes that George Bush is out to kill him - and that Fidel Castro is a fashion icon.

The controversial figure revealed some of his unconventional views on the world in an interview with supermodel Naomi Campbell.

The unlikely duo were teamed up for a feature in a men's magazine and the result was an attack by the left-wing president on the "genocidal" US government and its "completely crazy" leader.

"We're seeing the fall of the Empire," Mr Chavez told the London-born model. "When the world is in fear - that's the first step before the fall.

"Like the fairy tale, the Emperor is naked. We've seen the emperor's ass."

Campbell, 37, has been hired by GQ magazine to interview some influential figures from the arenas of politics, showbusiness and sport.

In the wide-ranging discussion with Mr Chavez, she discovered his admiration for other leaders - and his odd sense of humour.

Speaking about Fidel Castro, he said: "His uniform is impeccable. His boots are polished, his beard is elegant."

On Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, he said: "I sent her a present...I gave her a coin with her face on it."

And talking about Russia's top man, he revealed his own willingness to "go topless like Vladimir Putin". "Why not? Touch my muscles!"

Campbell toured Cuba in a bid to interview Chavez's ally Fidel Castro. Mr Chavez was also keen to find out more about the Royal Family, asking Campbell: "Do you know Prince Charles?"

When she replied that she had met him and had known Diana, Princess of Wales, the president declared: "I like the Prince. Now he has Camilla, his new girl. She's not as attractive, is she?"

Writing in the magazine, Campbell said she had chosen the former paratrooper as a subject to discover the man behind the presidency and described him as a "rebel angel".

The Venezuelan leader is no stranger to controversy.

In 2006 he delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in which he denounced President Bush as "the devil" and was famously told to "shut up" by King Juan Carlos of Spain during a leaders' summit in Chile in November last year.

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