One apparent sign of infrastructure woes occurred in August when an oil refinery explosion killed 42 people. That plant suffered mismanagement, delays in major maintenance and underinvestment, according to analysts and an engineering firm's recent report.
The state-run oil company that operates the refinery was found to have been hampered by how Chavez uses the refineries as "a cash cow" to fund social programs such as building homes for low-income voters, the report said.
The fires at the Amuay refinery also were described as "the most lethal industry accident in Venezuela to date" by analysts.
The government's refinery manager also said the explosion wasn't due to a lack of maintenance, according to government television. Chavez said that such accusations were "irresponsible" because investigators were still trying to determine the cause of the accident.
What gives Venezuela global importance is its 500 billion barrels in oil reserves. That compares to its total production and exports of 1 billion barrels a year, Weisbrot said.
That means Venezuela is going to be around for a long time -- with Chavez possibly at the helm, experts say.
"The United States is just going to have to get used to it," Weisbrot said. "They've been wrong about this guy just like they've been wrong about Cuba for the past 50 years.
"Look at all of the leftist governments that have been elected: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia and all of them have been re-elected and some of them twice.
"That's what happens when you deliver on your promises," Weisbrot said.