Venezuela's democracy is dead

Venezuela held elections for its 23 state governors Sunday amid rising malnutrition, hunger, hyperinflation and a looming debt crisis. In a fair contest, candidates backed by dictator Nicolás Maduro would have been crushed. But Venezuela is now a police state at war with its people. The truth has little chance on a good day, even less on a so-called election day.

This is not to say opposition victories were impossible. As we went to press, results had not yet been announced. But Maduro controls the national electoral council (CNE) and therefore has significant power to influence the outcome. In states the regime considers strategically important, he will put his thumb on the scale as necessary. He might also allow some opposition victories to support his claim that Venezuela remains a democracy.

To interpret Sunday’s results requires context. Remember that this election was held—10 months after its regularly scheduled date—to ward off European Union sanctions. Maduro sought to showcase a fair election so that the EU will back his continuing charade of “dialogue” with the opposition. An international community that is paying attention won’t fall for it. Sunday’s exercise in the Cuba-backed dictatorship was a sham.

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Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes The Americas column for the Wall Street Journal.