It is not normal for Americans to pay a lot of attention to elections in South America. Perhaps, based on this story in the Economist, there is a something important us to learn. And it is scary.
Starting with the headline and subheader, the comparison to Obama's America are obvious to anyone paying attention. In fact, as you read it, it is hard to separate from what many of us see happening in our own country.
Oblivious to the coming storm: In his first decade Hugo Chávez has presided over social programmes, inflation, crime and rising intolerance. Venezuelans will pay the price in years to come
Consider the following excerpts from the Economist's story and comments relative to America today
Ten years ago, when Hugo Chávez took office as president of Venezuela, the residents of this Caracas slum would crowd around the gates of the nearby headquarters of Radio Nacional each Sunday. They were there to see but, more important, to petition their leader as he arrived for his weekly radio show.
This is stunningly similar to Obama's speech in Florida last week where citizens asked him personally for a kitchen, cars and better jobs.
"With the arrival of the Revolution," proclaims an information-ministry press release, "the quality of life of most Venezuelans [has] improved."
Obviously the state run media functions just as our mainstream media does.
But crime, the cost of living and the problem of housing have all worsened substantially since Mr Chávez came to power. Inflation in 2008 was 31%-the highest in Latin America. Food prices in Caracas rose by almost 50%. The minimum wage is just 800 bolívares a month, although many workers with formal jobs get a bonus of around 250 bolívares for food.
So we have inflation caused by a government printing money to throw into social programs. Can you say "stimulus" we can believe in?
The government's hostility to private property has triggered a shortage of rented housing. Last year the government began to repair 150 houses affected by damp. But a day of heavy rain flooded most of them and ruined what had been achieved.
Hostile to private property - while being incompetent at managing that property publicly. Can you say Cuba, the Soviet Union -- and Obama's dream for America?
She points out that Chapellín now has three soup kitchens to help the poorest, primary health-care posts and a mercalito (a government shop with subsidised food). Not far away is an Integrated Diagnostics Centre (CDI), one of the free second-tier clinics set up by the government to offer more sophisticated medical treatment.
Well let's give these central planners some credit. After destroying the economy with hostility towards private property, they do manage to put the soup kitchens close to the free clinic.
The most reliable opinion polls suggest that Mr Chávez will win the referendum on February 15th. "People don't care about the articles [to be modified]," says Ms Graterol. "What they have here"-she touches her head-"and here"-the heart-"is Hugo Chávez. They know their leader's future is at stake."
Need I say more. Smitten Hugo-bots are just like our Obots.
So does Mr Chávez. He has turned almost the whole of the state bureaucracy, including the armed forces and the state oil company, into an election machine. Pro-government rallies teem with public-sector workers in red shirts and baseball caps bearing the logos of government departments.
Have you checked out Chicago politics lately? Can you say "card check?"
The opposition thinks Mr Bozo and his colleagues would be better employed trying to fix the mess in the oil industry.
This would be one of what Obama calls the "worn out ideas from the past."
Even so, Venezuela's economic prospects "are relatively comfortable in comparison with other countries in the region, and even the United States," insists Alí Rodríguez, the finance minister.
This would be funny, except that four years of Obama might bring this about.
The government claims to have squirreled away enough to maintain social spending and pay public-sector wages. Since these savings are in unaudited funds, it is hard to judge how long the government can withstand a low oil price without big policy changes.
Oh yes, by all means, let's maintain government spending and union wages. Damn the financial realities.
Many independent analysts expect stagflation, with the economy contracting by 2-2.5% this year and prices rising by more than 40%. The government will be unable to finance its social programmes and will have to devalue (their currency).
Sounds very familiar.
On the streets, few Venezuelans seem to be aware of these troubles. ...The government has resorted to large-scale food imports to tackle chronic shortages.
Keep the Obots ignorant - but fed - courtesy of the government.
Violence and intimidation of opponents by the security forces and by armed civilian groups (some openly linked to the government) have increased. Students campaigning against the constitutional change have faced harassment and arrest.
You know, like holding Joe the Plumber to higher tax standards than anyone in the cabinet.
The most disturbing incident was the sacking of Caracas's main synagogue on January 30th by more than a dozen armed men. They vandalized religious objects, painted anti-Jewish and pro-Palestinian slogans on walls, and stole computer hard drives containing a database of the Jewish community.
Nothing like a little anti-Semitism to fuel totalitarian take overs.
Days earlier a group of armed chavista radicals had attacked the Ateneo de Caracas, one of the capital's most important cultural centres. The assault was lead by Lina Ron, a prominent member of Mr Chávez's referendum campaign.
Ironically, the Ateneo provided Mr Chávez with a platform when he entered politics after leading an unsuccessful military coup against a democratic government in the 1990s.
Proof positive that "reaching across the aisle" and fostering a "new tone" does not work with those who want total government control.