Political Crisis in Venezuela

Political Crisis in Venezuela

Deepening political crisis in Venezuela leading to civil violence and potential regional instability


Venezuela faces political and economic instability as Nicolás Maduro’s deeply unpopular government seeks to quell widespread unrest. Oil prices have dropped by $30 per barrel since June 2014, exacerbating recession and increasing inflation in the oil-dependent economy. Economic decline has placed great strain on the Maduro regime: over two-thirds of Venezuelan voters believe that Maduro should not complete his six-year term.


Anti-Maduro demonstrations, which first broke out in February 2014, have been met with a severe government crackdown on the political opposition. Security forces responded to protests with widespread violence: a May 2014 Human Rights Watch report documents the abuse of over 150 victims. Efforts to suppress opposition activists ahead of congressional elections, scheduled for 2015, could lead to further political turbulence.

In December 2014, the United States passed legislation to impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials involved in violence against protesters. Civil unrest and heightened authoritarianism in Venezuela could threaten important U.S. economic and regional interests. Venezuela is one of the largest foreign oil suppliers to the United States and global oil markets would likely react negatively to the deterioration of U.S.-Venezuelan bilateral trade. The United States also has a strong interest in promoting democratic governance as the basis for a more stable and prosperous region.

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  • Shannon K. O'Neil

    Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies

  • Julia E. Sweig

    Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies