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Venezuela: Key facts

Venezuela has a turbulent history of political upheaval and the election of former coup plotter Hugo Chavez in 1998 brought its own mix of reform and controversy.

His Bolivarian Revolution, and its new form of socialism, pushes populist policies aimed at helping the poor. Programmes include free health care, subsidised food and land reform.

Mr Chavez's power was consolidated in 2000 by a new constitution and a National Assembly that let him rule by decree for one year.

Critics accuse Mr Chavez of authoritarian tendencies, but his popularity has been tested and proved in successive elections and a referendum.

His government antagonises the US with anti-Bush rhetoric and alliances with Cuba, Iran and China.

Clockwise from top left: President Hugo Chavez; Protesters against new constitution; slums in Caracas; campaign mural and street vendors; oil fields

Clockwise from top left: Hugo Chavez; Protesters against constitution; Caracas slums; mural and street vendors; oil fields

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