This CFR memo, by Patrick Duddy, gave me the heebbie jeebbies.
Should Chavez appear to be losing the election, die suddenly, or withdraw from public life for health reasons, tensions are likely to rise in Venezuela, especially if the public suspects that Chavez has used extra-constitutional means to preclude or invalidate an opposition victory in order to sustain his regime’s hold on power. Protests over such actions, which could turn violent, may in turn lead to the imposition of martial law and the further curtailment of democratic rights in Venezuela. This would almost certainly trigger a major political crisis in the Western Hemisphere that pits countries seeking to restore democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela—including the United States—against those who support Chavez and the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other states.
I explore some of the ramifications in my latest piece over on the IHT website.