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Chavez poll ratings remain steady

President Hugo Chavez's approval ratings remain in the 50% range, but a majority of Venezuelans disapprove of the government's performance on key issues such as crime, corruption and the economy, according to a poll.

The survey by the Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis said Mr Chavez's popularity stood at about 49% in late July, similar to his 50% rating the previous month.

The poll consulted 1,300 Venezuelans and had a margin of error of nearly three percentage points.

Mr Chavez has scaled back his televised appearances recently while undergoing cancer treatment. He had a tumour removed from his pelvic region in June and said chemotherapy aims to prevent any reappearance of cancerous cells.

The 57-year-old president's popularity has not been affected by his illness, said Luis Vicente Leon, president of Datanalisis.

Mr Leon said, however, that for the first time in the monthly poll, Venezuelans evaluated the government's performance negatively in a majority of areas.

"That could have to do with the fact that Chavez isn't as present as he was before, and so people may perceive that the country is a bit paralysed," Mr Leon said in a telephone interview.

The monthly survey asked Venezuelans' views about the government's performance in 14 areas.

While nearly 53% evaluated the government's social programmes for the poor positively, for other areas those disapproving outnumbered those with favourable views.

A large majority were dissatisfied with the government's performance in areas including jobs, housing, "your economic situation", "personal security", and "ending corruption".

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