President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration will confront one of its toughest challenges abroad in Venezuela, where President Nicolás Maduro holds elections Sunday in a vote the U.S. considers a sham.
With the election, Mr. Maduro will win control of congress, and his country will join Cuba and Nicaragua as the only nations in the Americas where a regime dominates all branches of the government and armed forces.
Mr. Maduro will wield untrammeled authority in a nation that once was a great oil power but is now suffering a crushing economic collapse as it is overrun by armed groups trafficking cocaine and gold.
Except for a few marginal, breakaway candidates not allied with Mr. Maduro, the opposition is boycotting a vote expected to give the strongman most of the 277 seats in the single-chamber congress, the National Assembly. It is the only body that until now had been under control of regime adversaries.
Although the U.S. and most European and Latin American governments consider the vote a charade, Mr. Maduro’s main goal is to make opposition leader Juan Guaidó irrelevant. Mr. Guaidó has been recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader since January 2019 by the Trump administration and more than 50 countries in Latin America and Europe, and his claim is predicated on being the head of the National Assembly.