Chavez, in an interview with AFP on Saturday, admitted that he „committed errors” in implementing some plans, especially in public services.
Capriles has hammered Chavez over the country’s decaying infrastructure, regular power outages and security troubles.
„The national government can’t take care of everything. I can’t take care of collecting garbage, for example,” Chavez said. „We need more political, social and economic efficiency.”
But Chavez warned during a rally last week that the election was about the survival of the popular social „missions” that bring affordable food, health care and education to the poor, not problems like power outages.
Capriles accuses Chavez of squandering the country’s oil wealth — Venezuela sits on the world’s largest proven crude reserve — to finance projects in other countries while many here lack proper housing.
Economic and social indicators have greatly improved since Chavez came to power in 1999, thanks in large part to soaring oil prices. When he took office, a barrel sold for $17; since then prices have skyrocketed as high as $120.
Venezuela’s gross domestic product was $91 billion in 1999, his first year in office. In 2011, the country’s GDP grew to $328 billion.
Illiteracy, child mortality and unemployment have fallen while life expectancy has risen under Chavez.
The United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) says the poverty rate fell from 49.4 percent in 1999 to 27.8 percent in 2010.
„Chavez has given Venezuela something you can’t quantify. He has made society focus on what was, is and will be the top issue in Latin America: inequality,” said Alberto Barrera Tyszka, co-author of a Chavez biography.
„He has carried out a more fair and democratic distribution of the oil revenue and has given a voice to the people who were excluded from society,” he told AFP.
Chavez has used the oil proceeds to nationalize a slew of companies in the oil, electricity, food and bank sectors, among others. US bottle maker Owens-Illinois and Spain’s banking giant Banco Santander were among his targets.
While Venezuela has made strides economically and socially, the billions in petro-dollars have not fixed all problems and the economy relies heavily on oil revenue.
„The social measures had a political impact but they don’t tackle the structural problems,” said historian Margarita Lopez Maya.
The government has a food distribution mission, but the country has little agricultural production.
Inflation has jumped to 27.6 percent last year from 20 percent in 1999.
Venezuela is also in drastic need of housing. In 2010, Chavez launched a mission aimed at building three million subsidied homes but the plan has yet to be completed.
„Any urban planner or housing expert knows that it’s not the way to resolve the housing problem in any part of the world,” Lopez Maya said.
„They are built in haste, some buildings don’t have parking or they are in areas with no services,” she said.
Along with housing, the growing violence has become the greatest concern for Venezuelans.
The government said there were 50 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants last year, making Venezuela one of the most violent places on the planet. And impunity reigns, with 90 percent of cases going unsolved.
Lopez Maya said the violence is linked to the country’s political polarization, drugs and the lack of prospects for young people.
Barrera Tyszka, the biographer, said violence has increased during Chavez’s rule, partly due to the nine to 15 million weapons circulating in the country and the former paratrooper’s „beligerent rhetoric.” AFP