In the movie version of our story, the U.S. officials would surely stand by and let Chávez be killed (in some fiction plots, they themselves might have carried out the murder!). They would assess arguments that did not equate: On one hand Chavez was establishing an undemocratic, anti-American government; the jails were filling with his political enemies while his corrupt cronies' coffers were filling with the republic's treasure; he was actively undermining U.S. global interests by allying Venezuela with fellow autocrats ruling Iran, Cuba, Russia, Belarus, and similar reprobate governments. On the other hand, some of Chávez's own countrymen were now planning to remove him from office by the very same illegal and lethal method that he had attempted in 1992. It was up to the United States, Chávez's perceived mortal enemy, to save him from physical elimination.
The real-life persons at either end of that secure line knew that Chávez was abusing, censoring, or dismantling the civil institutions that underpinned Venezuelan democracy, such as independent media, labor unions, religious organizations, the private sector; that his citizens were losing their lives in the process; and that if he succeeded, Venezuela's future would be dreadful. But what mattered to American officials were American policy, principles, and practice.
My reply to Shapiro, therefore, was an easy call: U.S. policy requires, if the United States is not at war with a country, that we notify its head of state if we learn of a plot against him. Chávez was in luck because both Shapiro and I served a government whose officials take law and policy seriously.