Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela crisis in 300 words

Protesters clash with police in Caracas on 30 April Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Supporters of Mr Guaidó have repeatedly clashed with security forces

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 governed for the past 20 years by the socialist PSUV party. From 1999 to his death in 2013, Hugo Chávez was president. He was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro, who narrowly defeated the opposition candidate in elections.

During its time in power, the PSUV has managed to gain control of many key institutions including much of the judiciary, the electoral council and the supreme court.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The PSUV still can count on a hardcore group of supporters
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption But many Venezuelans support Mr Guaidó and even some members of the armed forces have switched allegiance

When opposition parties gained a majority in the legislature, the National Assembly, President Maduro created a rival body - made up exclusively of government supporters - the powers of which supersede those of the National Assembly.

During his time in office, Venezuela's economy collapsed and shortages of food and medicines became widespread.

In May 2018, Mr Maduro was re-elected to a second term in elections which have widely been dismissed as rigged. He was sworn in on 10 January.

At the prospect of another six years of Maduro government and with the economy in freefall, the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared himself interim president on 23 January.

Mr Guaidó argues that Mr Maduro is a "usurper" and that the presidency is therefore vacant, in which case the constitution calls for the head of the National Assembly to step in.

The US and more than 50 other countries have recognised Mr Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela but Mr Maduro's key allies, Russia and China, have stuck by the latter.

The two sides have been locked in a stand-off since January with Mr Guaidó trying to sway the military, a key player in the country, to switch its allegiance.

On 30 April, he called on the security forces to join him in the "final phase" of the removal from power of Mr Maduro, a move the government said was "an attempted coup".

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