Today is election day in Venezuela. The opposition seems united, its candidate, Henrique Capriles, has run an energetic campaign and made a major comeback in the polls. Chavez has survived his health issues (so far), and the vote is expected to be very close.
While it is certainly fair to denounce the dramatic fall in economic freedom, personal freedom, and impersonal rule of law in Venezuela under Chavez, it is also important to remember that pre-Chavez Venezuela was not exactly a democratic paradise.
There is, after all a reason that Chavez was elected and re-elected and re-elected. People think Venezuela is a socialist dictatorship masquerading as a democracy (I don't think this is true), but pre-Chavez Venezuela was an oligarchy masquerading as a democracy.
While it may take 20 years to undo the damage Chavez has done to the economy and the rule of law, in the long run (40 or 50 years), I believe that Chavismo will prove to have been a net plus for Venezuela.
He broke the oligarchy. He gave voice and hope to millions of effectively disenfranchised people. I don't Venezuela can ever go back to the old ways again.
If I can get all Marxist up in here for a minute, to me something like Chavismo was almost an historical necessity for Venezuela given the abuses of the old regime.
For the big finish, I am going out on a limb and predicting a Capriles victory.