[The BBC Americas website has asked six writers and commentators to give their views on what kind of leader Hugo Chavez is. The writers include Venezuelan historian Margarita Lopez Maya, Bolivarian Federation of Students leader Abraham Aparicio, and UK academic Julia Buxton. --Ed]
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is up for re-election on 3 December. Since he was swept into power in 1998, he has proved to be controversial figure - loathed and revered - both at home and abroad.
Six writers and commentators give their views.
Click on the links below to read what they have to say.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is a typical Latin American caudillo (strongman) who achieved an international profile primarily because of his lavish petrodollar diplomacy.
Since taking office, he has systematically concentrated power under his "revolution". He rewrote the constitution to eliminate checks and balances in order to consolidate power in his hands.
His 1999 constitution eliminated the senate, did away with congressional oversight of the armed forces, and politicised the judiciary.
He has used these powers to harass the independent media and potential opponents.
I believe his failure to win a UN Security Council seat, which was his to lose, will be seen as the high water mark for "Chavismo".
At home, Venezuelans have grown poorer, less secure, and more divided under his rule. Chavez's political opposition is uniting behind an able and tough politician, experienced governor Manuel Rosales.
There is much evidence that Chavez has lost "the street" and some polls show the opposition closing the gap despite a government-funded campaign.
Electoral observers of the Organization of American States and the European Union have an important responsibility to ensure a free and fair election. But more and more every day, Venezuelans are realising that if they are to reclaim their democracy, they will have to toughen up and do it themselves.
I met Chavez in 1997, when I was looking for information on new figures in the Left. I had an interview with him which lasted about two hours.
What surprised me the most was his interpretation of Venezuelan history - his notion that, for the poor, nothing had changed since independence in 1830.
I was impressed when he said he did not want to become a myth, remembered because of his TV appearance after the 1992 coup.
Now, when I see him on TV, and I see the impassioned crowds screaming and crying, I find it hard to believe this is the same man I met in 1997. I think I am immune to the passions this charismatic leader arouses.
I see Chavez as a powerful and extremely contradictory political figure.
His determination to reach power, to deepen democracy - giving Venezuelans full participation and social equality - is worthy of the highest praise.
His ability to survive ferocious attacks from the Right - Venezuelan and international - show his political skill.
However there are threats looming over the process of democratisation: Chavez's desire to be the one who is essential in the process; his furious outbursts; his refusal to leave behind the polarising discourse; surrounding himself with people who are unable to treat him as an equal, and his desire to perpetuate himself in power and centralise it.
I see Chavez as a politician of the transition - as long as he keeps the process polarised, the country divided, we will not be able to achieve the new system we seek.
But maybe Chavez will surprise me again and manage to transcend himself and become a statesman.
Chavez is a very intelligent man - politically brave and bold. I think he is a great politician.
He is a formidable pragmatist - he may be a great admirer of the Cuban Revolution, but if he feels it is not right for Venezuela, he will not apply it across the board.
Chavez isn't involved in small-scale things - he does not like them. That is why it bothers him so much to have to be involved in an election campaign.
He feels that political problems are geopolitical - they are global - and that is where he should be occupying his mind.
But he has to campaign because he is charismatic. He is what they call a man of the people. He does not suffer from embarrassment or have the trappings of traditional politicians - he can sing at meetings, recite, or dance if necessary. People feel he is close to them - they see him as one of their own.
He has leadership qualities, not only because he is a military man, but because he likes being in control and giving orders. Chavez is terrible when it comes to revenge - he is inexorable. There is no stopping him.
In his mind, there is no-one above him. No-one tells Chavez what to do. That makes him a very solitary figure - one with no commitments.
That has another consequence: those who work beside him are scared of him.
They know he does not make compromises, because he feels he has a mission ahead. So, he has left behind many of those who have started the process with him.
Behind Chavez, there is a political cemetery.
The president is a great leader, with all his virtues and defects. There are things that may have escaped him, things he has missed, but that is just human - to make mistakes is normal.
The president is revolutionary, totally different to the people who have governed the country in the past.
These days, people are informed about what the government is doing, they are told where the money is being invested.
The president has himself been critical of certain things, such as the problems with housing and insecurity. He admits there are problems and that inspires me, as a community and student leader. I think we are going in the right direction.
The president has a very dynamic style of government. He often takes off his presidential investitures - he is like a friend, a father. He is an ordinary guy, and has a lot of charisma - that has helped him.
Those who accuse of him of being authoritarian should ask themselves what they mean by that.
If authoritarianism is giving more power to the people, then the concept of authoritarianism needs to be looked at again. If it is giving more opportunities for people to get an education, then one needs to ask what they mean.
The president is working for the people.
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