Hugo Chavez, 58, is one of the most visible leaders in Latin America. His regime forms the linchpin of an alliance from Iran to Cuba against U.S. policies. Since coming to power on a platform to help the poor, he has won a series of referendums, including one that allows unlimited presidential terms. He remains popular, but faces growing unrest over the nation's lackluster economy -- despite having one of the world's largest oil reserves -- and rampant crime, including one of the highest murder rates in Latin America.


Henrique Capriles, 40, who has served as legislator, mayor and governor, said he would follow the Brazilian model of business-friendly policies to expand the economy, coupled with social programs to help the poor. He has hammered away at government inefficiencies and mismanagement, and focused on runaway crime, high on the agenda of every Venezuelan. He has made inroads by pledging solutions to everyday problems such as crime, blackouts, corruption and poorly run public services.