A timeline of the political crisis in Venezuela, which began with claims of election rigging and has the US calling for regime change

AP/Getty ImagesA composite photo shows Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guiado 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.

For the past two 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.

In less than two months, Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó went 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 over accusations of vote rigging, violent protests, and a humanitarian crisis.

Here are the events that culminated in 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

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

On March 5, Guaidó met with unions to win their support, he tweeted. He is planning to organise a public sector strike, but the details have yet to be confirmed. On the same day, Maduro announced an “anti-imperialist” march to rival Guaidó’s on Saturday.

Source: Reuters

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