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We start in Venezuela, where dictat—err, three-term incumbent President Hugo Chavez is up for a fourth term Sunday. Under 14 years of chavismo, Venezuela's gone backward: Socialism has wreaked havoc on the economy and Venezuelans' quality of life; crime runs rampant in the capital, Caracas; and personal and political freedoms have eroded as Chavez has overseen the constitution's rewriting, seized control of media and used the military to crack down on political opponents. Meanwhile, for the first time since Chavez took power, the opposition has united around a credible challenger, Henrique Capriles, whose popularity rivals that of early-days Chavez.

Yet, as much as the contest should seem handicapped against Chavez, his ouster seems unlikely. Allegations of vote-rigging are already afoot: Due to the ballot's confusing design, people who think they're voting for Capriles may unwittingly vote for Reina Sequera or no one at all. Assuming, that is, Capriles's supporters show up: Fear of the new electronic voting system may dampen opposition turnout. The system scans every voter's fingerprints, and many worry it will record every voter's choice — and worry Chavez will retaliate against those voting against him. Finally, lest we forget, Chavez controls the vote-counters. Thus, while Capriles could yet win, Venezuelans seem more likely to endure the status quo.

No wonder Sean Penn loves this guy. Democrats can learn much from Chavez. And I'm sure they're taking notes.

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