What happened
Venezuelan voters on Sunday narrowly defeated a bundle of constitutional reforms that could have let President Hugo Chavez run for re-election indefinitely and given him—according to opponents—the powers of a dictator. (AP in USNews.com)

What the commentators said
“It was a shocking electoral loss” for a “strongman,” said Chris Kraul in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). And it seems clear that Chavez’s defeat, after nine years in power, will “embolden the opposition,” especially the student groups that led the street demonstrations against the constitutional changes.

Democracy is still under attack in South America, said Gustavo Coronel in HumanEvents.com. Leaders in Bolivia and Ecuador have followed Chavez’s lead and tinkered with their own countries’ constitutions. Like Venezuela, both are “in advanced stages of being turned into undemocratic regimes.” Let’s hope that in Venezuela and elsewhere voters’ “love of freedom” can “be the lifeline” that saves democracy.

It’s encouraging to see Venezuela’s democracy pass this test, said Richard Cohen in The New York Times (free registration). “Ch