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What on earth is going on in Venezuela? The story so far and what to expect

A compilation of the current situation in Venezuela, and likely developments ahead

BS Web Team/Agencies 

People attend a concert organised by the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Tienditas. Photo: Reuters

Venezuela’s political crisis seems to have no end in sight, with President Nicolás Maduro refusing to relinquish power and blocking humanitarian aid from entering the country to help address a growing food shortage.

Last month, Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself president of the country, arguing that Maduro’s victory in the 2018 presidential elections was illegitimate. More than 60 countries have recognized Guaidó as the country’s president, but Maduro’s refusal to step down has thrown the country into chaos.

Here’s what we know about what’s happening in Venezuela, and what’s next.

soldiers kill two in clash over aid on Brazil border

Venezuelan soldiers killed two people and wounded 15 others when they tried to prevent the troops from blocking an entry route for humanitarian aid on the Brazilian border, a human rights groups said.

"An indigenous woman and her husband were killed and at least 15 other members of the Pemon indigenous community were injured," said the group, Kape Kape.

The clash occurred in southeastern Bolivar state close to the border with Brazil, which President Nicolas Maduro ordered closed on Thursday. Read more...

Guaido defies travel ban

Guaido delivered a blow to Maduro as he turned up unexpectedly at the concert in the Colombian border town of Cucuta, claiming "the armed forces participated in this process" to help him flout his travel ban. The powerful military's backing is crucial to the viability of the socialist leader, with defections strengthening Guaido's hand. Guaido has set a Saturday deadline for the entry of humanitarian aid, saying as many as 300,000 Venezuelans are in dire need of food and medicines after years of shortages and malnutrition. Read more...

US says Maduro human rights violations won't go 'unpunished'

The White House says the “egregious violation of human rights” by Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and those who are following his orders “will not go unpunished.”

The US “strongly condemns the Venezuelan military’s use of force against unarmed civilians and innocent volunteers on Venezuela’s border with Brazil,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in an emailed statement. The US “strongly urges the Venezuelan military to uphold its constitutional duty to protect the citizens of Venezuela” and allow humanitarian aid to enter the country.

“The world is watching,” the statement said.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said earlier that a second tranche of US humanitarian aid landed in Cucuta today at the request of Venezuela’s Juan Guaido. “This aid must be allowed to enter” Venezuela, Pompeo tweeted. Read more...

What are the biggest challenges?

Arguably the biggest problem facing Venezuelans in their day-to-day lives is hyperinflation. The annual inflation rate reached 1,300,000% in the 12 months to November 2018, according to a study by the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

By the end of 2018, prices were doubling every 19 days on average. This has left many Venezuelans struggling to afford basic items such as food and toiletries. Read more...

Millions have fled since 2015

Some 2.7 million people have fled since 2015 amid a devastating political and economic crisis, according to UN figures. Read on...

How did the protests start in Venezuela?

In January 2016, the Supreme Court suspended the election of four legislators - three that were enrolled with the opposition and one with the ruling party - for alleged voting irregularities. The opposition accused the court of trying to strip them of their super-majority, and went ahead and swore in three of the legislators in question. In response, the Supreme Court ruled that the entire National Assembly was in contempt and all decisions it made would be null.

The deadlock continued when the court suspended a stay-or-go referendum against Maduro and postponed regional elections until 2017.

After the National Assembly refused to approve the country's state-run oil company, PDVSA, from forming joint ventures with private companies, the Supreme Court ruled on March 30 that it will take over the Congress' legislative powers.

The next day, protesters in Caracas took to the streets to protest the court's take-over the National assembly.

The court quickly reversed its decision on April 1, but street protests continued on an almost daily basis for over three months with regular clashes exchanges of rocks and tear gas between young protesters and National Guard troops.

Demonstrators also protested hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicines in the country. Read more...

First Published: Sat, February 23 2019. 15:02 IST