A timeline of the political crisis in Venezuela, which began with claims of election rigging and has now led to an attempted military coup

AP/Getty ImagesA composite photo shows Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaidó and president Nicolas Maduro.
  • Venezuela is in the depths of a crippling political crisis, precipitated by a hotly-contested election in January 2019.
  • During the crisis, opposition lawmaker Juan Guaidó has risen as a credible threat to President Nicolás Maduro.
  • Guaidó is backed by the US and many other countries, and has been seeking to wrest power from Maduro.
  • On Tuesday, he declared the “final phase” in his campaign to oust Maduro and called on the military and civilians to join him.

For the past several months, Venezuela has been locked in a dramatic political crisis, which has seen countries around the world disavow its president and back an upstart politician in his bid to depose him.

Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó has rapidly moved from being a little-known lawmaker to the opposition leader posing one of the greatest threats to President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist rule in recent years.

But the tensions between the socialist government and the opposition party dates back more than a decade, spanning accusations of vote rigging, violent protests, and a humanitarian crisis.

On Tuesday, Guaidó announced that he was beginning the “final phase” of his bid to oust Maduro, and called for his followers to rally at an air base in the capital Caracas.

Here are the events that led to the current crisis.

Socialist leader Hugo Chavez died in 2013, when his vice president Nicolas Maduro stepped in to take over. Chavez had been in charge for 14 years.

(Ariana Cubillos/AP)Hugo Chavez waves to supporters.

Source: BBC

Soon after, shortages and crime ravaged the country. Anti-Maduro mass protests broke out, and 43 people died.

(Rodrigo Abd/AP)Anti-government protest in 2014.

Sources: CNN, Forbes

Leopoldo Lopez, the most prominent opposition leader, was charged for fomenting unrest in the 2014 protests. He spent three years in prison and is now under house arrest.

Source: Reuters

In December 2015, the opposition party won a majority of seats in the National Assembly for the first time since Chavez took power in 1999.

(Fernando Llano/AP)Opposition supporters celebrate National Assembly win.

Source: PBS

As oil prices continued plummeting, the oil-dependent economy tanked, and the government could not afford to import many foods. Maduro declared a state of “economic emergency” in January 2016.

(Esteban Felix/AP)Venezuela’s economic crisis has caused food shortages.

Source: CNN

Maduro’s government faced significant protests in 2017 as it created the Constituent Assembly, which took over most important legislative functions. The Supreme Court also tried taking over the functions of the opposition-led National Assembly, but failed.

(Ariana Cubillos/AP)Anti-government protesters in 2017.

Source: Reuters

On January 5, 2019, the little-known lawmaker Juan Guaidó was appointed the head of the National Assembly, shorn of most of its power.

(Fernando Llano/AP)Guaidó swears in as head of National Assembly.

Source: Reuters

Just five days later, Maduro started a second presidential term. His election win was dogged by accusations of vote-rigging. Domestic opposition parties, the US, and 13 other countries in the Americas do not recognise the result.

(Ariana Cubillos/AP)Maduro swears in for his second term.

Source: BBC

Tens of thousands of people around the country staged protests saying that Maduro’s presidency was unconstitutional and fraudulent, and told him to resign. They were met with pro-government rallies.

(Marco Bello/Getty Images)Anti-government protesters in 2019.

Sources: The Associated Press, CNN

On January 23, Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, on the basis that there is no legitimate president of Venezuela, and called for free elections.

Source: The Associated Press

With opposition leader Lopez still under house arrest, Guaidó emerged as the new face of the anti-Maduro movement.

The US, Canada, and most Latin American nations immediately recognised Guaidó as interim president. Maduro severed diplomatic ties with the US in response.

amCharts/INSIDERThe countries in green recognise Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president as of the morning of January 24, 2019. Countries in red are those that support Nicolás Maduro, while Venezuela is in yellow.

Read more:
Nicolás Maduro tells US diplomats to leave Venezuela within 72 hours after Trump recognises opposition leader as interim president

Guaidó began to urge soldiers, especially high-ranking ones, to join the opposition. The military is the backbone of Maduro’s power, with generals holding important government positions. The national guard is frequently deployed against protesters.

(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Read more:
567 Venezuelan soldiers defected to Colombia, and it could be a sign that Maduro’s once rock-solid power base is starting to crumble

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Guaidó offered amnesty to everyone opposing Maduro’s government, and members of the armed forces who haven’t committed crimes against humanity.

Many members of Venezuela’s military – a solid power base for Maduro – are implicated in human rights abuses and drug trafficking, according to The Associated Press.

Source: The New York Times

Venezuela’s Supreme Court imposed a travel ban for Guaidó and froze his assets on January 30, saying he is being investigated for “usurping” power.

Maikel Moreno Twitter via TSJ NoticiasMaikel Moreno, the president of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

Source: El Pais

Some of Europe’s most important nations, such as Germany, France, Britain, and Spain, backed Guaidó on February 4.

Read more:
Maduro refuses Europe’s ultimatum to call new elections in Venezuela and threatens a White House ‘stained with blood’ if Trump intervenes

On February 22, Guaidó defied his travel ban. He left Venezuela to attend the “Venezuela Live Aid” concert in Colombia, organised by British billionaire Richard Branson.

Source: France 24

Read more:
Nicolás Maduro is waging a bizarre contest with Richard Branson to see who can stage the best pop concert – as Venezuela crumbles

The following weekend, opposition supporters tried to bring in US-backed humanitarian aid over the Colombian and Brazilian borders, which the government closed. The armed forces barred their entry, killing two and injuring more than 300.

(Rodrigo Abd/AP)

The Venezuelan government shut the country’s bridge to Brazil on February 21, and to Colombia on February 23.

Source: The Associated Press

Read more:
Photos show chaos in Venezuela as protesters and soldiers clash over humanitarian aid shipments

International leaders rejected the possibility of sending their militaries into Venezuela to take over control. Guaidó had tweeted that “all options are open” after Maduro barred US-backed aid to enter.

Source: Juan Guaidó/Twitter

Guaidó travelled around South America to meet world leaders who back him, including US Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador.

Official White House Photo by D. MylesGuaidó, Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, and US Vice President Mike Pence meet in Colombia.

Source: Bloomberg

Guaidó announced Monday, March 4, as his definitive return date to Venezuela, risking arrest and imprisonment for going against the travel ban.

Juan Guaido’s PeriscopeGuaidó announces his return on a livestream.

Read more:
Juan Guaidó is heading back to Venezuela after a 10-day exile – despite threats of arrest and 30 years in jail if he crosses the border

Guaidó arrived in Venezuela and passed through immigration on March 4, he said on Twitter. He was met by European diplomats.

Source: The Associated Press

On March 5, Guaidó met with unions to win their support, he tweeted.

Source: Reuters

Thousands of supporters welcomed him at a rally where he called for a new round of protests on Saturday, March 9.

(Eduardo Verdugo/AP)Guaidó greets supporters at his welcome rally.

Source: The Associated Press

Venezuela’s opposition-run parliament declared a “state of emergency” over blackouts on March 11, their fifth day. Guaidó said the declaration was necessary as “we will not allow this tragedy to be considered normal.”

On March 16, Guaidó said he was launching a “new phase” in his campaign against Maduro, and said he would travel around Venezuela before “reclaiming” the presidential palace.

Venezuelan authorities detained Guaidó’s chief of staff on March 21, leading John Bolton, Trump’s national security advisor, to say that Venezuela had made a “big mistake.”

The Asahi Shimbun via Getty ImagesUS National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Maduro’s government said that Guaidó was barred from serving in public office for 15 years on March 28, though Guaidó dismissed the announcement.

The EU condemned Venezuela on April 4 for removing parliamentary protections on Guaidó, allowing him to be prosecuted.

Greg Sandoval/Business Insider

The EU said in a statement that the move “constitutes a serious violation of the Venezuelan constitution, as well as of the rule of law and separation of power.”

On April 6, thousands of Venezuelans demonstrated in support of Guaidó, simultaneously protesting against ongoing power cuts.

Reynaldo Riobueno/Shutterstock

Source: Reuters

On April 10, US Vice President Mike Pence called on the United Nations to revoke Maduro’s credentials and to recognise Guaidó as president.

Official White House Photo by D. MylesVenezuela’s Juan Guaidó, Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, and US Vice President Mike Pence meet at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores in Bogota, Colombia. on February 25, 2019.

Guaidó toured parts of the country affected by the ongoing blackouts, visiting the Zulia state in the west of the country on April 14.

(Ariana Cubillos/AP)Relatives of a patient walk in the darkened hall of a clinic with a candle during a power outage in Caracas, Venezuela, March 7, 2019.

On April 19, Guaidó called on Venezuelans to join him on May 1 for “the largest march in the history” of the country to pressure Maduro to leave.

Guaidó said that the Maduro “dictatorship” prevented him from visiting a city in the west of the country, and cancelled a rally there on April 28.

On April 30, Guaidó said that he was launching a military-backed operation to topple Maduro, and called for his supporters to gather at a military base in Caracas.

Juan Guaido/TwitterJuan Guaidó in a video he posted to social media on April 30, declaring the ‘final phase’ of his campaign against Maduro.

Guaidó announced the beginning of “Operation Liberty,” while Reuters reported that both sides exchanged gunfire.

Guaidó called for the military to support his bid, which Maduro’s defence minister said the country rejected and called a “coup movement.”

In a tweet, Guaidó said “the moment is now.”

“The country’s 24 states have taken to the road: no turning back. The future belongs to us: the people and Armed Forces united by the cessation of usurpation.”

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