The recent international summit between Spain, Portugal and most of the countries of Latin America produced few surprises, but it did confirm—if confirmation was necessary—that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is out of control and up to no good.

The most widely reported summit event was Spain’s King Juan Carlos telling Mr. Chavez to shut up. As usual, Mr. Chavez was on a rant, thumbing his nose at the simple rules of democratic debate. The king’s scolding came after Mr. Chavez accused former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of being a fascist.

While the incident had less political significance than entertainment value, it says much about Mr. Chavez’s in-your-face political style.

Mr. Chavez’s attack was allegedly triggered by Spain’s decision five years ago to side with the opposition when Mr. Chavez was removed from power (and then, unfortunately, reinstated.)

While Mr. Chavez hails the principle of nonintervention in his speeches, it obviously applies only to other governments, not to his government or to his allies. Mr. Chavez has plunged headlong into the latest elections in Peru, publicly encouraging and privately financing populist candidate Ollanta Humala. In Bolivia, he has promised military support for President Evo Morales, a Chavez clone and ally. Mr. Chavez’s government, in its latest approved budget, also set aside $200 million to bankroll alternative groups—meaning anti-American—in Mexico and Central America.

Mr. Chavez’s trouble-making, remarkably, has been aided by a number of democratic governments, which welcome him—and his generous checkbook—as a legitimate ruler and put up with his histrionics.

No Latin American government, for example, has questioned Venezuela’s corrupt electoral system or even expressed concern about the scheduled referendum tomorrow to amend the constitution, which will increase Mr. Chavez’s power, further limit dissent and curtail individual rights.

In the face of such passivity, Mr. Chavez has created a stacked-deck electoral system based on rigged voter rolls, which have never been made public, and total lack of transparency regarding tabulation of votes. The government intervenes openly in election campaigns, harasses the opposition, threatens voters, and spends million of dollars in public money to guarantee the desired outcome.

Tomorrow’s vote on a series of proposed constitutional amendments will make matters even worse, conferring Mr. Chavez with absolute powers of unlimited duration. The proposed amendments also will give the Venezuelan president the power to change the districting of the country by creating or eliminating states at his whim and eliminating popular elections in states and municipalities. It would be like President Bush, unhappy with New York and California for twice supporting his opponent, deciding to eliminate those two states.

Worse still, the constitutional changes will formally establish Venezuela as a socialist state and forbid, by constitutional mandate, criticism of the state or any change in its form of government. Private property rights—such as business and home ownership—will be subject to the whims of the state. The government also will assume total control of the educational system, public and private, and the health-care sector, which will be nationalized.

While publicly attacking the Spanish government, Mr. Chavez proceeds resolutely with creating a totalitarian state for once-democratic Venezuela.

He does so before the passive eyes of an international community that tolerates everything he does and continues to accept him as a legitimate world leader, without objection.

Mr. Chavez has made it clear he plans to spread his socialist revolution throughout the region. Yet, most Latin America’s leaders do nothing, perhaps because they don’t think they’re at risk. But they are at risk.

If they continue to tolerate his abuses of power and let him interfere at will in the affairs of other countries, they will invite Chavez-inspired and -financed chaos in their own countries. By now, you would think most national leaders would understand this painful lesson.