Hugo Chávez is not shy in courting controversy.
Inspired by the libertarian philosophy of Simón Bolívar while a paratrooper in the military, the Venezuelan president has used his "oil diplomacy" to pursue Latin American socio-economic integration, denounce US influence and establish ties with Iran, Libya, Russia and China.
Chávez is criticised for his intolerance of opposition and a wavering commitment to human rights.
The abolition of term limits last year ensures his continuing presence on the political scene, no doubt augmenting anxieties that his foreign policy might one day live up to his firebrand rhetoric.
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