Crisis in Venezuela


Beginning in 2012, Venezuela began to sink into an economic crisis that was fuelled by poor government management of the economy and was worsened by a sharp drop in oil prices in 2015. Amongst other issues, this resulted in reduced spending on social welfare programs, that had previously been created by President Hugo Chavez, following the country’s economic boom due to rising oil prices in the early 2000s. This crisis has resulted in a breakdown of the economy, hyperinflation, food scarcity, child malnutrition, rising infant and maternal mortality rates, a resurgence of previously eradicated diseases, soaring unemployment, rising crime and homicide rates, lack of medicines and medical supplies, shortages of basic imported goods, housing shortages, anti-government protest crackdowns, human rights violations, the rise of the black market, political and military corruption, and unprecedented emigration. Almost 90% of the population currently lives in poverty. There is no clear end to this conflict, until the Venezuelan government acknowledges their part in enabling the crisis, allows food, medicine, and humanitarian aid to flow into the country, and works to stabilize the economy to protect their citizens from further suffering.


Where: Venezuela

Population: 32.3 million

Deaths: More than 10,000

Refugees/Displaced peoples: 4 million

Detainees: 340 political prisoners

Current Situation: Frequent protests as the political and socioeconomic situation worsens

Key actors

led by President Nicolás Maduro, has been accused of enabling the crisis through poor economic management and government corruption. The party is supported by the Constituent National Assembly, an elected body charged with drafting Venezuela’s new constitution, and made up almost entirely of government supporters. The government is also supported by the Great Patriotic Pole, an alliance of several political parties that support Maduro – including Maduro’s own party – and many pro-government community groups and paramilitaries (known as colectivos).

a catch-all coalition of roughly 15 government opposition parties. They are supported by a number of Latin American and Western states along with the EuropeanUnion and NATO.

a coalition of 13 Latin American countries, plus Canada that was formed as a response to the Venezuelan crisis, mediating and working to end the crisis.

imposed financial sanctions against Venezuela in 2017, and again in the wake of the 2018 election, which was declared an unfair “sham” election, by many opposition members in Venezuela and a number of other countries.

has heavily condemned the Venezuelan government’s treatment of its citizens, the human rights abuses committed by the government, and the “erosion of democratic institutions.”

Timeline of the crisis

Hugo Chavez is elected as President and ushers in a new age in Venezuela defined by costly social welfare programs, closing the gap on wealth inequality, and reducing poverty – all financed by surges in oil prices, which make up 95% of Venezuela’s revenue.

Chavez dies after a two-year long cancer battle. He names Nicolás Maduro as his preferred successor before his death.

Maduro wins the presidential election by a 1.5% margin.

 Opposition leader Leopoldo López calls on students to protest against scarcity, shortages, and government corruption and mismanagement.

Other opposition leaders call on people to protest on 12 February, National Youth Day.

Small student marches are held across universities and colleges.

First major protests against the government begin in 38 cities, many of them led by opposition leaders and consisting of student marchers. The protests continue through March and turn violent when opposition protestors clash with pro-government groups and government security forces, and several students are arrested.

A Colombian news channel is taken off the air by the Venezuelan government for its “biased” coverage of the protests.

Maduro organized pro-government rallies and prohibited violent anti-government demonstrations.

A judge accepts a petition from the Attorney General’s office to detain López.

López turns himself in to the Venezuelan National Guard. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch call for his release, particularly in the wake of further violent protests between government supporters and opposition protesters.

Tens of thousands of government and opposition protesters take to the streets again in the capital Caracas and in San Cristóbal.

Venezuela cuts diplomatic ties with Panama, who called for intervention in the country to manage protests.

The Penal Court brings 40 alleged human rights violations regarding the 12 February protests, to the government.

Venezuela cuts economic ties with Panama.

Maduro acknowledges that the government has detained 1529 people since the protests began.

Violent and peaceful protests continue throughout April and May, while an estimated 28 people were killed in the past two months of protests and riots.

 100 days of protests are marked with further marches.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expresses concern about human rights abuses and violations in Venezuela.

Protests in cities and towns across the country continue for the rest of the year, with protestors ranging from laborers, students, doctors and nurses, mothers and fathers, politicians, and many more. The protests themselves focus on government human rights violations, food and goods scarcity, poverty, oil prices, government corruption, and a host of other issues.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski calls on opposition protesters to mobilize after increasing food shortages and long lines at supermarkets.

Imprisoned opposition leader Daniel Ceballos and López announce they are beginning a hunger strike and call on opposition protesters to mobilize for a mass protest.

Around 200,000 people collectively protest in cities across the country, demanding the arrest of protesters along with a set date for the next parliamentary elections.

After spending a year and a half imprisoned, López is found guilty in a corrupt trial and is sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Venezuela’s homicide rate grows to the world’s highest, after think tank Observatory of Venezuelan Violence, finds that 27,875 homicides were committed in 2015; a rate of 90 per 100,000 people.

Congressional elections are held, and MUD gains a majority in the National Assembly, winning 109 of a possible 164 seats.

Unemployment hits 18%.

A poll from pollster group Datanalisis finds that two-thirds of Venezuelans want Maduro to end his presidency this year.

he opposition-led National Assembly introduces legislation to release the 70 opposition leaders arrested in the past two years of protests.

Opposition politicians deliver a petition with 1.8 million signatures asking for Maduro’s removal, pushing for an official referendum on the issue.

Opposition protesters march in Caracas demanding the National Electoral Council (CNE) hold a referendum to recall Maduro.

The CNE suspends the referendum, citing voter fraud as the reason. This sparks more protests.

Foreign journalists are barred from entering Venezuela, as 1.2 million people across the country protest against Maduro’s rule, and demand he leave office.

Vatican-backed discussions between Maduro’s government and the opposition stall, after the government refuses to release prisoners and hold recall elections.

Central bank figures show that inflation rose 800% in 2016 – the highest in Venezuela’s history – while GDP shrunk 18.6%.

Several opposition leaders and politicians are arrested by the government for allegedly attempting a coup.

The Vatican officially leaves peace talks between the two parties.

Small marches continue throughout the country, due to fears of repression from the government, who close public transportation and set up police roadblocks and checkpoints in an attempt to minimize numbers.

Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ; the highest court and head of the judicial branch) takes over all legislative powers from the opposition-majority National Assembly. This decision was reversed a few days later, on the 1st of April.

The opposition calls for a large scale “mega-march” on 19 April; Maduro announces the creation of 2000 security checkpoints and 200,000 additional authorities to stop the march.

Maduro orders the expansion of the Venezuelan National Militia to include 500,000 of his most loyal supporters.

The “Mother of All Protests” begins, with increasing violence, resulting in 520 arrests. News outlets estimate anywhere between hundreds of thousands to 1.2 million protesters participated.

A peaceful national sit-in is held across the country, bringing the day to a complete stop.

Hundreds of thousands continue to march throughout the month.

1 May 2017 – Maduro announces plans to replace the National Assembly with a “communal national constitutional assembly” who would draft a new constitution to replace the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution.

15 May 2017 -A second national sit-in occurs, blocking traffic across the country for twelve hours.

20 May 2017 – The 20th day of consecutive marches is marked by millions of protesters in Caracas, in the “We Are Millions” march, resulting in 90 injuries after authorities responded with violence.

The opposition announces they will hold an unofficial referendum asking for thoughts on the creation of a constitutional assembly, the government’s actions, and the military.

National Guardsmen stand aside as government supporters and armed groups storm the National Assembly and attack opposition members, injuring 12 people.

López is placed under house arrest to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

The opposition’s referendum is held, and finds 99% of voters do not want to elect a new Constitutional Assembly, want the military to respect the 1999 Constitution, and want new general elections to be held and the establishment of a “Government of National Unity.”

Millions participate in a 24-hour general strike bringing the work day to a standstill, despite threats from Maduro against small business owners.

Elections are held for the Constitutional Assembly, despite widespread international condemnation. The opposition boycotts the election, and the majority of elected members are Maduro supporters and loyalists.

The CEO of Smartmatic, who run Venezuela’s voting machines, say tampering by the CNE was highly likely during the election, and Maduro’s claim that eight million votes were cast was wrong by at least one million votes.

he Constitutional Assembly is sworn in and promptly dissolves the National Assembly.

Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, a critic of Maduro, is dismissed from her role by the Constitutional Assembly.

The Constitutional Assembly assumes the powers of the National Assembly.

Regional elections are held and the CNE claim Maduro’s party won 17 of 23 governorships in the country.

The Minister of Interior Justice and Peace bans all organised protests until 3 November 2017.

The attorney general announces plans to prosecute protest organizers.

Municipal elections are held, and the government claims victory in 306 municipalities.

Maduro announces three opposition parties would be banned from participating in the 2018 general election due to their boycott of the municipal elections.

Inflation rose over 4000% in 2017, according to independent economists and opposition parties.

Maduro announces a 15% raise in minimum wage due to hyperinflation.

Dominican Republic-backed talks between the government and opposition are suspended.

An annual survey published by three Venezuelan universities finds that 25% of the population is eating two or less meals a day and 90% of the population currently lives in poverty.

Approximately 728 protests and marches took place throughout March.

After being brought forward from a late-2018 date, the presidential elections are held and Maduro is elected for a second term, after most opposition leaders boycott the snap election, which was also condemned by international institutions, other nations, and NGOs. Many nations, including the Lima Group, the United States, and the European Union, refuse to recognize the results of an unfair and rigged election.

Two drones explode near President Maduro during a televised speech. The President accuses Colombia and the US, saying it was a right-wing plot to kill him.

In an attempt to counteract massive inflation, Venezuela slashes five zeros from its old currency and renames it the Sovereign Bolivar

Following a NY Times report, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry denounces US intervention plans to help military conspirators overthrow President Maduro

Venezuelan dissident Fernando Alban dies in custody by supposedly jumping from a 10th floor window. Alban had been arrested following a trip to New York where he spoke out against President Maduro

A report from the UN’s Refugee Agency announces that the number of people fleeing Venezuela has now reached 3 million. Venezuelan refugees are hosted in neighbouring countries such as Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina.

The UN announces a $9m aid package to people suffering from hunger and disease in Venezuela. Critics worry that, due to the level of corruption in the country, the aid package could be misappropriated.

Maduro has reaffirmed his caution surrounding the U.S’ involvement in Venezuela by arguing that Washington aims to kill him and invade the country.

In the masses of anti-government protests, Juan Guaido, opposition leader, declares himself interim president of Venezuela. With several demonstrators shot dead, Guaido claims to rescue Venezuela from dictatorship.

Trump declares support for the ‘new president’ of Venezuela, consequently leading to Maduro officially cutting ties with the US.

European member states including the UK, Spain and Germany have reaffirmed their support for Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s new president, whilst Russia accuses European countries as interfering in foreign affairs.

Deadly clashes occur with 2 people dying as Maduro blocks humanitarian aid from entering the country. Whilst opposition leader Guaido stresses the importance of aid for the people hit by the economic crisis, Maduro has referred to such aid as constituting a security threat.

Described as a final push, Guaido urged supporters to hit the streets to overthrow Maduro.

UN agencies such as UNHCR and IOM have displayed that the ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has led to over 4 million people fleeing the country. The political crisis shows no signs of being resolved and neighbouring countries are hesitant to take in the mass numbers of fleeing Venezuelans.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announces plans to reopen the country’s border with Colombia. Venezuela has suffered immensely both economically and politically following the country’s crisis. Several Venezuelans cross the border illegally to import food and other supplies. The move could also be seen by some as a tactic to repair relations between the two countries, following Colombia’s backing of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The US and Venezuela’s opposition party have expressed strong condemnation over the killing and torture of a Venezuelan navy captain amid reports of an attempted ousting of Maduro. The navy captain, Rafael Acosta Arevalo, was accused of attempting a coup d’état against Maduro, to which shortly followed his arrest and subsequent death.

A report by the UN’s Human Rights agency urges action against the grave violation of human rights documented in Venezuela. The report, which details over 5,000 killings, describes the government’s strategy as “neutralising, repressing and criminalising political opponents and people critical of the government”.

Despite previous negotiations between both parties failing, Guaido has expressed his readiness to talk with Maduro to quell the political and economic crisis in the country.

The US aims to send $40m in humanitarian aid to support US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido. The money is to be focused on governance training as well as salaries against the economic and political crisis.

Venezuela suffers from another blackout in what is increasingly seen as common in the ongoing crisis. Officials in Maduro’s government have referred to the blackout as an electromagnetic attack, whilst the President himself blames criminality for the cause of the blackout. Others, however, notably Juan Guaido, argue that the Maduro’s government is to blame, amid claims of corruption.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro urges Colombia’s military to defy orders and to unite as one sole military force. Colombian President Ivan Duque has criticised Maduro as providing a safe haven for Colombian rebel groups. Maduro’s comments typify the failing relationships between neighbouring countries.

Officials from the US treasury have accused multiple members of Maduro’s government as reaping the benefits of a state-run food subsidy programme that was designed to distribute food equally throughout the country. The US officials have described this as a vast corruption network.

In a brief statement, Trump admitted to the possibility of blockading Venezuela. This statement arrives at a time as Maduro and Guaido commit to talks brokered by Norway. Representatives from Venezuela have referred the threat to the UNSC.

In what is described as an act of war by Maduro, the U.S imposed sanctions on the Venezuelan government in a new move to force Maduro to step down.

In protest of recent U.S. sanctions, Maduro’s government cancelled meetings with opposition leader Guaido, whom is supported by the U.S.

UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet has described recent U.S sanctions on Venezuela as “extremely broad”, serving only to exacerbate the suffering among an already vulnerable population.

Venezuelan President Maduro confirms having talks with the Trump administration.
Several members of the Trump administration have also been talking with Maduro’s counterparts
in ‘secret’ discussions to resolve the crisis.

Maduro accuses Colombia as provoking a military attack as he places his army of full alert. Maduro referenced what he terms as a remilitarisation of the FARC rebel group in Colombia as constituting a threat to security. Colombia responded with criticism directed at Maduro for sheltering FARC guerillas.

Venezuela begins military exercises at Colombia border following increasing tension between the two countries. The amount of military personnel is stated to include over 150,000 troops, tanks and aircraft.
The US invokes a regional defence treaty – Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance – aimed largely against possible Venezulan aggression. The treaty supports a mutual act on aggression for any of the Americas countries.

Following the recent crisis in Venezuela, neighbouring countries have struggled with 4 million migrating Venezuelans leaving
the country. Host countries such as Colombia, Peru and Ecuador have taken in 55% of that number alone. Colombia have particularly
struggled with the increase in migration stating that the country does not have the money to support the incoming migration.

Mexico and Uruguay have also urged for dialogue between the regional countries in attempts to end the Venezuluan crisis. This
follows the recent cancellation of talks between Maduro and Guaido with Norway as a mediator.

How can you help?

All For Venezuela and Cuatro por Venezuela Foundation are both nonprofit organisations that partner with other local nonprofits and individual donors to provide financial aid and physical donations to Venezuelans in need.

World Vision reaches more than 125,000 Venezuelan refugees in surrounding countries by providing access to food and water, shelter and child-friendly spaces.

Project Hope helps families and children fleeing the crisis in Venezuela by providing humanitarian assistance.

The Venezuelan Society of Palliative Medicine is another nonprofit comprised of various healthcare professionals that work to treat Venezuelans suffering from “chronic, advanced, and progressive diseases.”

The World Food Programme is a humanitarian aid organisation that is currently seeking $US46 million in order to deliver food aid to some 350,000 Venezuelan migrants who have crossed the border into Colombia.

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