Political Crisis in Venezuela

Political Crisis in Venezuela

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


Venezuela faces political and economic instability following the death of President Hugo Chávez in March 2013 and the narrow victory of his successor, Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party. Despite revenues of $90 billion per year from Venezuela’s vast oil reserves, Chávez’s policy of “twenty-first century socialism” produced an annual inflation rate of more than 50 percent and a fiscal deficit of more than 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Maduro has responded to Venezuela’s economic emergency by successfully seeking decree powers from the National Assembly in order to eliminate corruption and economic “sabotage” by his political opposition and the “conspiratorial” United States. The opposition has accused him of electoral fraud and blamed a massive September 2013 power outage on government corruption.

In February 2014, anti-Maduro demonstrations broke out, resulting in more than forty deaths and hundreds of injuries. Despite attempted mediation by the Vatican and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in early April, street protests continue across the country’s major cities. Security forces have responded violently: a May 2014 Human Rights Watch report documents the abuse of over 150 victims.   

Civil unrest and heightened authoritarianism in Venezuela could threaten important U.S. economic and regional interests. Venezuela is one of the five 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