The tub-thumping exponent of the revolución bolivariana takes his lead from, of course, Simón Bolívar ("The Liberator"). In 1810, a group of Caracas Creoles including Simón Bolívar created the First Venezuelan Republic. The colonial authorities were deposed on April 19 1810, and independence was declared on July 5 1811. Venezuela was the first country in the region to start the struggle against Spanish rule, but fighting continued until 1823.
Top five attractions
The 3,210ft-high Angel Falls, which are easily reached by small plane or canoe from Canaima.
Mount Roraima and its unique ecosystem, the ’Lost World’ of Conan Doyle's novel.
Los Roques atoll for pelicans, boobies, frigates, shipwreck diving and snorkelling.
The lowland, cowboy country of the Llanos, superb for observing wetland species such as capybara, anaconda, caiman and many wading and other birds.
Cumaná, founded in 1521, full of castles and churches and possibly the oldest Hispanic city on the mainland.
Caracas has a certain Dante-esque appeal, but for a safer, more leisurely city head to Mérida, the capital of the Andes. It has 33 parks, some colonial buildings and lots of adventure tourism options (paragliding is popular here), and is a good base for exploring the Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada.
Souvenir to buy
A T-shirt depicting King Juan Carlos of Spain telling Chávez to shut up ("Porqué no te callas?") during the Ibero-American summit of November 2007.
Golf tourists should stay away: the president has condemned their sport as "bourgeois" and a waste of good land that could be used for housing developments for the people.
The adventure yarn ‘In Trouble Again’ by Redmond O'Hanlon, about a four-month trip up the Orinoco and into the Amazon basin, on which he encountered electric eels, vipers and anacondas.
By Chris Moss, Telegraph Journalist.