First the Castro brothers, now the man who wanted to replace them as the next tin horn tyrant and general irritant.

The results of yesterday’s Venezuelan National Assembly elections have dramatically altered the country’s political landscape, sharply curtailing the power of President Hugo Chávez and inserting into government politicians not openly hostile to the United States. With a voter turnout of 66 percent, the opposition, Table for Democratic Unity (MUD), secured sixty-one seats while the government held onto ninety-four seats (with several still undergoing vote counting). This result has effectively robbed Chávez of the two-thirds majority he needs to pass “organic” laws–sweeping laws requiring an absolute majority. Since the defeat of his constitutional reform in 2007, Chávez has been using these laws, passed through the 100 percent Chavista National Assembly, to advance his Bolivarian Revolution and deepen his socialist project.

Chávez also has lost his ability to modify the constitution or call a constituent assembly. The multi-party assembly will also be able to influence the budgeting process, under which Chávez has been funneling 25 percent of the windfall oil revenue into a presidential discretionary account. This increased oversight will slow the financing he needs to expand twenty-first century Socialism at home and abroad, and will complicate his relationship with ALBA countries that rely heavily on Venezuelan money.

Even more significant is that the MUD collected 52 percent of the popular vote, placing it firmly as the primary political force in the country. This is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for Chávez in an election billed by the opposition and the government as a referendum on Chávez and his Bolivarian Revolution. Looking toward the 2012 presidential elections, Chávez and his party now represent a minority despite the apparatus of the state and the handouts of thousands of electro-domestics and food stamps in the last days of the campaign.