Chavez, Putin Make Their Own Democracy

This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
Two elections to watch this weekend, both high stakes and both with important implications for the United States.

First in Venezuela it's too close to call on sweeping constitutional changes called for by President Hugo Chavez. Chavez wants to nationalize more of his countries businesses and create what in effect would be a government which would keep him in power forever.

Chavez has won friends in the U.S. by providing cheap heating oil for poor Americans. Among his biggest detractors though are Venezuelan students who realize his power-grab is antidemocratic.

Then there's Russia.

Vladimir Putin's party will get most of the votes and the more they get the easier it will be for Putin to create a true one party state. Dissidents, including chess champion Gary Kasparov, are routinely jailed there. Free speech and independent media have been all but silenced. If it's a landslide, just call it Evil Empire 2.0.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.