What do you think the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, has achieved?
Mr Chavez has been criticised by the United States for being Fidel Castro's ally and promoting left-wing causes in Latin America.
Since coming to power in 1998 he has split the country between those who say he has become increasingly autocratic, and those who say he speaks for the poor.
Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil producer and a key member of Opec, supplying 15% of US oil imports.
Is President Chavez the voice of the poor? Or is he an autocrat? Is he a hero or a villain? What do you think of his attitude to the USA?
President Hugo Chavez answered your questions in a special pre recorded edition of Talking Point. This was broadcast on BBC World Television and BBC World Service Radio on Sunday 23 October.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Mr Chavez quickly wins our hearts, so we forget the main issue at stake: Mr Chavez presidency was supposed to last 5 years. That would have been three years ago. Democracy is dead in Venezuela, thanks to SmartMatic/Sequoia. Wake Up World! This is what electronic elections do to Democracy!.
Jaime Cohen, San Bernardino, Venezuela
After reading some of the comments here, it's obvious that some of the people here have no idea of what they are talking about, specially the ones outside the country. I support Chavez and his government is one of the most democratic that this country ever had.
AM, Caracas, Venezuela
It is interesting that the Venezuelans who've commented so far criticise their president and others for backing their president. Could it be that a disproportionate number of Venezuelans who voted with the majority to elect and retain Hugo Chavez aren't fluent English speakers and can't afford computers because of his predecessors' policies? As far as I'm concerned, anyone who Bush dislikes this much must be quite good. If only the Bush Administration would spend half the energy and money to overthrow Mugabe, lives might be saved. But saving or enhancing lives have never been a goal of right-wingers, whether they're American, British or Venezuelan.
Mort, Detroit, US
President Hugo Chavez is a real, compassionate leader who defies the simple-minded categorizations that our corporate-conservative mass media force feeds us every day.
Mikw Wahl, Rochester, New York
The readers, Hugo Chavez and the BBC should notice that 99% of the comments from Venezuelan people are against Chavez. If foreigners want to praise him, they should come and live here for a year, and lets see and see 'Chavez's great government' for themselves.
Ana Lopez, Caracas, Venezuela
President Chavez I salute your heroic effort of trying to establish a cartel of developing countries opposed to US tyranny. You will go down in history as one of the few leaders of the world not afraid of speaking out against George Bush's policies of oppression and exploitation. Thank you!
Michele, Rome, Italy
What a surprise! A left-wing, anti-American love affair with Hugo Chavez! Let's look at one fact, shall we? Despite record oil prices, the economy of Venezuela has been sinking for years and international development has been running away as fast as possible. Yes, what a wonderful job you have done Hugo!
Irwin, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Mr Chavez, you are a good actor! Your speeches are always full of pathos and vehemence! And in many issues you are absolutely right. Due to this, you are so popular at mass media! But what the benefits this popularity brings to your Motherland and the common Venezuelans? As I understand, there are many domestic problems in Venezuela: poverty, high unemployment rate, poor education and medicine and so on. So, maybe it's better to pay more attention to country's difficulties than to your own image.
Natasha, Moscow, Russia
When Chavez is no longer in power, shall the will of the people prevail if the majority wishes to return to privatization of the national economy and its institutions, as would be the case in a democracy? If, as many non-Venezuelans in this survey say, the Venezuelan opinion is skewed by the anti-Chavez opinions of the rich, computer-owning citizens, then and only then will this be known.
Dave, VA, USA
I am stunned by the amount of people on this web site, which praises his social reforms. These individuals are oblivious of the realities and circumstances of the so-called social revolution. The only revolution going on in Venezuela is more like evolution of the previous poverty, social insecurity and uncertainty - but worse.
President Chavez, like all of us, is far from perfect. However, he has ample reason to suspect the USA of having unfriendly designs towards his country's sovereignty. Venezuela is oil-rich, a resource of obvious importance to the American economy. President Chavez has consistently refused to acquiesce to American wishes on a number of economic and political issues. This is a behaviour that the American superpower does not easily abide. Moreover, Chavez's championing the political and economic rights of the poor in his country sorely irritates the Bush Administration, who fears such notions may spread to other Latin American countries. America has already been caught trying to finesse Chavez' removal from power. Having failed in that effort, it then staunchly supported the economic elite of Venezuela who claimed Chavez had lost the support of his electorate. That, we now know is not true. Will America be content to let the Venezuelan people elect their own rulers? The world can only hope so.
Eric Calderone, New York, USA
By allying himself with regimes in Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Chavez shows his true colours. Like others before him, he exploits the poor while claiming to help them. History has shown that free markets are best for a nation's economy, and socialism breeds poverty. Compare nations on either side of the iron curtain if you doubt this premise.
PCRH, Dallas, TX, USA
Congratulations Senor Chavez, continue with your economic reform at home. Abroad continue being a beacon of hope for all of us who resent and fear US imperialism
Steve Gowtridge, London, UK
Chavez is proof that world leaders need only bash America to gain international appeal. Pay no attention to Venezuelan mass poverty and corruption. If you want to ruin a country, institute socialism.
I am among a group of Venezuelans that even agreeing with you in some of your views don't agree on the way you put them in practice. I agree with you in some of your views regarding USA international politics, but I don't agree on the way you insult the governments of other people or their presidents as much as I wouldn't allow anybody to insult mine. I don't agree with the missions but I do agree that the medicine and the healthcare has to be available to the people especially the poor. Same with the education, same with providing decent places to live and land to produce. But I don't agree with expropriations by summarial decision of the executive power without any legal procedure to allow the land owners to defend themselves.
Kira Kariakin, Caracas, Venezuela
While watching during the turbulent times that Venezuela has gone through, you Mr Chavez, have worked hard to create a state of equality. However, within the world today, soaked in the belief of Western ideology, how are you going to prevent people and politicians within your nation from undermining you? The fact is people are greedy and politicians want to line their pockets with money; how do you prevent that from happening, and how will you ensure that it won't happen after you are gone?
Christopher Rivera, New York City, USA
President Chavez, it is great to see the oil revenues of Venezuela at last being used to help the poor of your country, and you deserve credit for that. However, it is disheartening that you should apparently see Robert Mugabe as an ally. Mugabe is no Castro - you do your socialist cause a great disservice by failing to distance yourself from him.
Douglas Lindsay, Glasgow, Scotland.
Is partisan politics distracting us from more pressing social issues? Would we achieve more if we threw of the bonds of ideology and instead attacked things from a neutral perspective addressing only the issues at hand?
Pedro Enchilante, Norwich
President Chavez: Your concern for the downtrodden Venezuelans is a source of hope for politics in the world. With that in mind, what are the employment prospects for the poor in your country? Are there opportunities opening up in the oil industry? How has the educational system adapted to meeting the needs of the population? I wanted to thank you for your efforts to address injustice throughout the world.
Ben Hanson, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Dear Hugo Chavez, I admire your work and your perseverance against all the critics. Stand strong and best wishes bringing prosperity to Venezuela!
Derek Vihvelin, Saint John, Canada
Mr Chavez, I am deeply impressed by your reforming government. Can your political programme survive without you to guide it and are the reactionary forces in your country a danger to you personally?
Jamie Gibson, Sheffield, UK
So far you have shown that you are a revolutionary leader, who could stand against the big capitalist interest and US without fear. Many people around the globe appreciate you dearly. You are the hope of the poor masses. Greatest human being of the 20th century, Che Guevara would have thrilled to see your work. Keep up the hard work for a South American union, where exploitation and poverty would be history. Hasta la victoria siempre!
Matt, Montreal, Canada
As a Venezuelan I don't understand what you are doing in my country. Since you are President we're poorer and more negligent about public issues. You are an autocratic leader and you must go out of the presidency to give chance a really representatives of the poor. Venezuela would thank you.
Carlos Fernando Calatrava P, Caracas, Venezuela
Many praise Chavez policies, yet the government control of the economy and the way the programs are being performed leaves little or no incentive to business to operate in the country. Poverty also erodes established operations. In other words, the economy is not moving in a proper direction, the middle class has just been wiped out, and now Venezuela is left with millions of poor, and a government forcing itself to be the feeder for all of them, instead of creating market opportunities while protecting the lower income sectors
Rodney, Oranjestad, Aruba
It is sad that all the prior political leaders in Venezuela have failed the country. They have never done as much for the poor as Chavez. All the US-supported dictators in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean have always failed the poor people. I don't think the US can be trusted for acting on behalf of the poor people of the region. Historically, who will still honestly trust the US in this region?
I'd say he's performed very well. He's alienating the wealthy elites, and parts of the middle class. His rather one-sided view of the US is amusing one moment, insulting the next. I wonder if President Chavez's plan for taking the land from those who legally own it will follow that of Mugabe in Zimbabwe. But, then again, Chavez can always depend upon the US to buy his oil. Whether he wants to believe it or not, it's a damned sight cheaper and easier than trying to unseat a loudmouth. His speeches against Bush, regardless of your impression of the US President, do nothing. I'm actually in favour of significant cuts in oil importation and shifting to less fossil-fuel usage for the USA. That would include Venezuelan oil.
Christopher Magee, Fairfax, VA USA
President Chavez is more concerned about trying to get under the skin of the US Government than he is about his own country and his own people. The business environment in this country has gone downhill fast in the years he has led this country. He is not well liked in this country. The outsiders who know nothing that goes on are the one's who have a fascination with him.
Eduardo Perez, Caracas, Venezuela
Instantly anyone who does not agree with America or follow their demands is demonised. Hugo Chavez is no exception. He, like any other leader, is not perfect but as the US see him as a threat to their direct authority over other nations their anti-Chavez rhetoric has tainted his office. I seriously doubt that any other pro-US politician who could replace Chavez would do better for the Venezuelan people. Just as with Castro who dared defy the US and threw them out of Cuba he is labelled as a threat in one way or another. It is time that a national leader stands up to the intimidation of the US and their politics and he is an elected leader after all, isn't democracy what the US strives for, the opportunity for the people to decide for themselves which they did. He has the right to his opinions and full credit for doing so. Again, I doubt any pro US Venezuelan President would do much more for the people.
Andrew Stamford, Australia
Regarding the performance of Hugo Chavez, I would give him an A rating for health and education services to the poorer people, as well as a good subsidised food program. But I would give him an F with regards to creating a healthy business climate to stimulate investment and create employment. The majority of Venezuelans receive their income from the formal and informal business sector - not from the government - and these Venezuelans are poorer than ever.
Fernando Gonzalez, Catia, Caracas
If Chavez and his policies are so good why are most educated young professionals leaving the country? The brain drain has to be an indication of social discomfort, if we believe the economy is fine in Venezuela.
Argimiro Rodriguez, London, UK
Mr Chavez, I am a history teacher and an avid observer of Latin American politics. I want nothing more than for you to succeed in your social reforms. My question is why do you think socialism has not worked in Latin America? Does the US have something to do with its failure?
Brian Stefanelli, Staten Island, New York
I am a single mother of 3 with a food shop in Caracas. The government has just opened a Mercal store close to me with subsidised prices at 50% of what I can sell. My business will soon be finished. I am one of millions of poorer Venezuelans that are facing lower income and unemployment. Does the government plan to employ 25m people? Why don't they understand they can best help us by allowing our businesses to do well? Most of us do want work and do well and provide for our families.
Andreina, Caracas, Venezuela
My question is actually for the readers. Doesn't it strike you as odd that all the people that seem to like President Chavez's policies are foreigners? You need to hear the other side of the story. The one of prosecution, disrespect for basic human rights, economic uncertainty, poverty. He is not different than any other populist presidents we've had in the past... well, maybe he is: he is selling himself and his so-called revolution to the world. I would invite any of you to come to my adored country for a few months... leave your comfortable lives in US, Canada, Denmark, etc and come here and see for yourself. He is the best marketing person there is.
Maria Paula, Caracas, Venezuela
To Maria Paulus: Actually, it's not odd that it's only foreigners who admire President Chavez on this site and not Venezuelans. The vast majority of Venezuelans love his policies. They just don't have access to the internet to express their feelings like the rest of us.
Jabu Gubula, Pretoria, South Africa
President Chavez might have the welfare of his people in his heart, however, the socialist policies will not benefit the people or the state. By becoming the Messiah of the poor, Chavez is alienating the middle class who needs to work harder, and the wealthy who can help the economy.
When are you going to stop supporting those like Castro and Mugabe who refuse to allow their citizens political and economic freedom? By doing that you are being anti-human. It's no better than the way you say Bush is behaving.
Laszlo Detre, Ottawa, Canada
Poverty in my country is increasing. Freedom of speech is dominated by the government. Those against the President's rule are coined as traitors and villains. Private property its been undermined. Mr. Chavez, if you think that been rich is a bad thing, as you have said - can you explain to poor people why are you surrounded of luxury?
Mr Chavez, you are to be commended for your stand against poverty, and the less than sympathetic capitalist nations. I know socialism is the only reasonable form of government, and that it can work. It worked in Britain in the 1960s, and I trust will work for many years in Venezuela.
Michael Grimes, Trenton, Ontario, Canada
President Chavez, when will you stop using the guise of American imperialism to cover your own country's inadequacies? Your people live without basic utilities and even food. Many are living in fear of rebels, crime, and drug rings. They need strong leadership, from both you and the global community, not an American and European enemy. Every time you push America and Europe aid out of your country, you push your own people further away from progress.
Honourable Mr Chavez, I salute you for your admirable stand with the people of the third world. Your courage in drawing a line between Venezuela and the powerful arrogant superpower is encouraging to others! God bless. Would we see a unified front from the third and developing countries on the international issues?
Mr President Hugo Chavez - I believe you are working, to improve the lot of the needy and the poorest of your countrymen. Standing up to a bully is never easy. Take for example Canada's softwood lumber export - US does not wish to honour NAFTA. So what is the point an "agreement" with the US? Or its disagreement they respect more. You are not a colony of US as some like to think.
JD Singh, Ottawa, Canada
President Chavez I like your policy in south America, you are about bring a great change in Latin America, they need a men like you to transform south America into a new world of equality. I hope others look into your leadership and learn from it.
Roh, New York
As a socialist, I constantly bemoan what seems to be the inability of progressive governments to enact long-term institutions that will create permanent change. I worry that after your time in office is over, Venezuela will cease to be a guiding force of progressivism in Latin America. What will you do to ensure that your legacy remains beyond your tenure? Additionally, as the example of the Soviet Union clearly shows, a "socialist" state with an elite vanguard is no socialist state at all. True democracy, with its freedoms of speech and association is the bedrock upon which any lasting socialist state must be founded. What do you plan to do to ensure that these rights are protected and that their exercise is encouraged? Thank you!
Elisa Gomez, Dearborn, Michigan
Western media characterizes you as a man who would follow the paths of men like Simon Bolivar, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara. Is this true? If so, do you support the overthrow of other Latin American governments in order to realize a common Marxist state in Latin America as was once supported by Castro and most notably, Guevara? Would such an ambition not plunge the whole of the Americas into turmoil and, if so, how do you plan to limit what you call your own revolution within Venezuela and maintain the tenuous geological stability in which we have all lived, both northern and southern Americans, for the past few decades?
Daniel Wall, Chicago, U.S.
President Chavez: I think you are a bright light amongst an otherwise dim group of world leaders - a Bobby Kennedy for Latin America. It seems that most politicians and institutions are mostly concerned about enhancing and protecting the wealth of the super-rich while the rest of us are increasingly on our own. What actions are necessary to establish or maintain a healthy middle class as the predominant political power of a country?
Anthony, Irvine, CA, USA
Mr. President: How dare you pretend to export your "Bolivarian Revolution" to the entire world, when the levels of poverty in our country, are higher than ever? At International press conferences why don't you talk about the way you control all of the states institutions? Perhaps you have forgotten to tell the rest of the world how you are using a new law to control and silence the private media.
What is Venezuela doing to encourage freedom, social justice and self determination in the more reactionary states of Latin America?
Bill Goldman, Annapolis, MD, USA
Why don't the Latin American countries form a common market block, where they can stand up to the dominance of the developed countries, and they can get good trade agreement that help their citizen?
Abdallah, Chicago, USA
Some in the US have labelled your government as Marxist or Communist. It seems obvious from your many market-friendly and pro-capitalist economic policies this is not entirely the case, but I am curious what model(s) of government you do see as exemplary of your administration. Are there particular historical/current day examples you could point to as inspiration for your brand of politics?
Kimrey Batts, Ann Abor MI, USA
President Chavez, I have been to Venezuela several times, since 1994 and am still concerned about the country's prospects. Why is your cabinet continuing to undermine the independence of Venezuela's institutions, when you are popular enough to reverse a legacy of weak accountability and transparency?
Fouad, Beirut, Lebanon
Mr President, I think it is important for Venezuelans to know that, despite the Bush administration and "fruitcake" right-wing televangelists, many Americans support the work you are doing to help the poor and working people of your country. You have advocated socialism for your country. The term "socialist" scares many Americans (I am not a socialist myself), even those who otherwise support a "progressive" agenda. Do you see 21st century socialism as a temporary bridge for the poor and working class to raise their economic status, who will then transition to a more conventional "free market" economy. Or do you see 21st century socialism as a permanent trend and a solution that will be more successful in developing your people in the long run?
Scott Milinder, Palm Harbor
What is the main goal of the government for the year 2006?
Leandro Chique, Preston, UK
I would love to hear Mr Chavez answer to the listeners quiz about who he would like to have running the world. I would also like to know what Mr Chavez thinks are the most important problems facing us today. Thank you for wonderful programs!
Luci Smith, Copenhagen, Denmark
What guarantees are you making on paper, in your government (amendments/laws) that will solidify your economic system of fairness to insure that when you are gone Venezuela will never be able to be taken advantage of by a select few again? Is it not possible to make it a law that an exact percentage of Venezuela's resource/export wealth must be spent in a certain way (health care, schools, public works etc)?
Carlton, Framingham, MA USA
I love your stance on matters of international politics and so on, but I wanted to know what are your long term plans for the people of Venezuela and the difference between the rich and the poor? And what can Venezuela do to help solve this oil price crisis. Thank you Mr Chavez.
Thierry, Winnipeg, Canada