Venezuela crisis in 300 words

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image source, AFP
image captionNicolás Maduro has been in power since 2013

Venezuela is engulfed in a political crisis with two rival politicians claiming to be the country's legitimate leader.

How did this happen?

Venezuela has been run since 1999 by two men. From 1999 to his death in 2013, Hugo Chávez was president. He was succeeded by his right-hand man, Nicolás Maduro.

During their more than two decades in power, the socialist party PSUV founded by Chávez gained control of many key institutions including much of the judiciary, the electoral council and the supreme court.

But under President Maduro, Venezuela's economy collapsed. Shortages of basic supplies became widespread, prompting more than 5.6 million people to leave.

image source, AFP
image captionMore than five million Venezuelans have fled the country in the past years, many on foot

In December 2016, opposition parties won a majority in the National Assembly, and the legislature became a thorn in President Maduro's side.

Mr Maduro was re-elected in 2018 but the poll was widely dismissed as rigged. National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó labelled Mr Maduro a "usurper" and declared himself interim president in January 2019.

image source, Getty Images
image captionMr Guaidó invoked a paragraph in the constitution which allows for such a step when the presidency is left vacant

More than 50 countries recognised Mr Guaidó, but the Venezuelan military, a key player in the country, has remained loyal to Mr Maduro.

Mr Maduro has remained in the presidential palace and in charge of the country.

The US, which has sided with Mr Guaidó, has imposed sanctions on Mr Maduro, his inner circle and Venezuela's oil industry, making it hard to get fuel and foreign currency.

Most of the opposition parties boycotted legislative elections held in December 2020 and as a result, a coalition led by Mr Maduro's PSUV party won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly.

However, Mr Guaidó says the government-controlled assembly should not be recognised because the elections were neither free nor fair.

He and his fellow opposition lawmakers argue that until free elections are held, their assembly is the only legitimate institution in Venezuela.

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