Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez doesn't go away easily. Since he came into office in 199, he's been reelected twice, beaten a recall referendum and a coup.
Now he’s facing another poll next year. Chavez is still popular, and his pro-poor, socialist agenda has helped to reduce poverty. His critics charge him with implementing unsustainable policies, and inappropriately favoring those who support him — and working to censor those who don’t.
Here's a look at the challengers:
Henrique Capriles: The governor of Miranda state, Capriles is currently at the top of the polls among the other opposition candidates. He’s also encroaching on Chavez’s support, which is a feat for an opposition politician.
A survey released this week by the Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis showed Capriles with about 36 percent support to Chavez's 38 percent in a two-way matchup. The late July survey of 1,300 Venezuelans had a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.
Leopoldo Lopez: The opposition politician had been banned by Chavez from running for president. That ruling was recently overturned by the Inter-American Human Rights Court, a regional body. It’s not a binding decision, though, and Chavez didn’t seem too impressed. In classic form, he laughed it off with a joke:
"One of my haircuts is worth more than this court," he said to laughter from an audience of supporters. In Spanish, the word "corte" means "court" as well as "cut", as in haircut.
Antonio Ledezma: The mayor of Caracas, the capital city, advocates education and other development programs for the poor rather than the handouts he accuses the government of offering.
Chavez seems confident of a win, as usual. This time, though, the opposition candidates say they're united in ousting the president. They'll face off in a primary in February.