Venezuela profile - Leaders
President: Nicolas Maduro
Nicolas Maduro assumed the role of acting president on the death of Hugo Chavez in March 2013, and was declared winner of the presidential elections held the following month.
He was named as vice-president in October 2010 by Chavez, who subsequently named him as his preferred successor.
Mr Maduro was elected by a margin of less than 2% over his opposition opponent, Henrique Capriles, casting doubt on his ability to maintain unity within the left-wing ruling alliance assembled by Chavez.
Mr Capriles said his team had found more than 3,000 irregularities and that he would contest the results, but his case was rejected by the supreme court.
Mr Maduro's first year in office also posed tough economic challenges, with inflation rising to over 50% a year - one of the highest rates in the world.
The new president reacted by having Congress vote to grant him special powers for a year, and used them to place curbs on prices and company profits.
Despite the rocky economic road, Mr Maduro's United Socialist Party and its allies won a convincing victory in local elections in November 2013, demonstrating the enduring appeal of 'chavismo' for many Venezuelans.
But discontent with the government flared up in February 2014, when protests in western Venezuela against high crime rates spread to the capital.
The authorities broke up the protests after six weeks of what they called an attempted "slow coup".
At least 28 people died in the protests. Opposition continued to mount over food shortages and the government authoritarian behaviour, and Mr Capriles's Democratic Unity coalition won control of Congress in December 2015.
But a Supreme Court decision debarring three Democratic Unity deputies deprived the coalition of the clear two-thirds majority that would have allowed it to block government legislation outright - a decision that the coalition deems politically-motivated.
Protests intensified in 2017 as the economy continued to fail. The opposition demanded early presidential elections, and Mr Maduro indicated some willingness to return to Vatican-mediated reconciliation talks.