At Caracas Chronicles, Francisco Toro--no friend of the Chávez goverment, to put it mildly--has a good post on election fraud in the upcoming presidential election. His argument is that Chávez clearly violates electoral law with regard to use of state resources, but will not resort to numerical fraud, i.e. tinkering with the vote totals.
This brought two things to mind.
First, Chávez is popular and can win elections without numerical fraud. This is hard for many opponents in the United States to swallow.
Second, it raises the question of how to define "free and fair" elections. Francisco argues that because of Chávez's use of state resources, the election cannot be considered free and fair. The Democratic Charter of the OAS, though, does not mention that aspect of elections:
the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people
That language is largely the same as the United Nations:
[C]itizens, without distinction of any kind, have the right and the opportunity to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives, and to vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors
The focus, then, is on making sure the vote is secret and the counting is not tampered with. Peter Smith, who has studied Latin American democracy for many years, discusses "free" as free to enter a contest, and "fair" as the outcome not being rigged (in his Democracy in Latin America, esp. page 10).
To a certain extent, this is a debate about semantics. When it comes to international approbation, however, semantics matter because a label is affixed to a particular election. My guess is that in the absence of numerical fraud, Venezuela's election will be labeled "free and fair."