Not a single word filters out, not one doctor dares to bear witness, not one revelation escapes through the media. Nevertheless, there's a feeling of nervousness in the air.
The true picture of Venezuela today is the polar opposite of Chavez's fantasies. His regime has never looked so vulnerable and the opposition has never looked so strong. As we ready ourselves for the next set of challenges the December 16 elections are the next opportunity to remind the world that Chavez is far from invincible.
As part of an eight-member delegation from the National Lawyers Guild, we spent the week leading up to the October 7 Venezuelan presidential election in Caracas, learning about the electoral system that Jimmy Carter has called "the best in the world."
Finance Minister Guido Mantega continues to decry what he considers a currency war perpetrated on Brazil by the U.S. Federal Reserve's loose money policies.
Deserving peacemakers may not be people you would think of because they have either been vilified or completely ignored by the Western press.
It's a part of the world where I feel more at home than in any other, a continent I feel deeply rooted in. It's a part of the world that feels unjustly neglected and it's true: Who seems to care today? Who addresses this relationship in the campaign?
As Venezuela slides further towards authoritarianism, the least we can do is recognize the latest elections were anything but perfect and very far from "democratic."
By winning 54 percent of the national vote, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez declared the election a "perfect victory." Ironically, not only was it imperfect but it amounts to an ideological defeat.
Fifty-four percent of Venezuelans have ratified Hugo Chavez as leader of their country, and Raul's regime has some breathing room. But the great polarization in Simon Bolivar's fatherland will make it more difficult to publicly sustain the maintenance of Cuba.
Mr. Chávez was quick to emphasize his centrist position during his victory speech. But does this mean that we are likely to see a more moderate Chavismo in the next few years?
The U.S. foreign policy establishment (which includes most of the media) seethes with contempt for Venezuela's democratic process. But Venezuela is part of a "Latin American Spring."
If the Venezuelan results will decide whether we are granted billions in subsidies, and our relationship with our powerful neighbor to the north is in play in those elections, the Cuban elections smell strongly of a play whose script is already written.
My guess is that Hugo Chávez will ultimately prevail in his nation's presidential election, but it's still anyone's guess as to what might happen. If the race is close, Venezuela could descend into political destabilization or even chaos, which is surely a worrying prospect.
The man who has dominated Venezuela's politics for over a decade -- and has often expressed his will to rule for at least one more -- is suffering from voter fatigue and an uncertain health outlook after being diagnosed with cancer in mid-2011.
Electoral experts often talk about "free and fair" elections as if they were one and the same. In point of fact, these are two different components that together make up a legitimate election.
So, where does Washington go from here? If it wants to preserve its increasingly tenuous foothold in a nation with the world's largest oil reserves, it might begin by engaging in some honest diplomacy.