Chavismo and opposition battled again on Wednesday in demonstrations in Caracas, in a new episode of the political and economic crisis that has accompanied the four years of Nicolás Maduro’s government and that already claimed 7 victims since last week.
These are five key moments in the Venezuelan crisis:
-2013, Chavez’s death and Maduro’s election: President Hugo Chávez, founder of the “Bolivarian Revolution”, died of cancer on March 5th, 2013. Maduro, who was Vice President and anointed successor, won the following elections by a narrow margin over Henrique Capriles.
-2014, oil crash: The price of crude, which reached 100 dollars a barrel, began to fall in 2014, reaching 33 dollars in 2016 and 44 in 2017. That slump drastically cut imports and triggered a shortage of food, medicine and supplies for the industry, amid a tight price and exchange control.
Along with the economic deterioration, the opposition led by Leopoldo López took to the streets to demand the resignation of Maduro, in protests that left 43 dead between February and May that year. Accused of calling violence, López is serving a sentence of nearly 14 years in prison.
-2015, opposition victory: In the middle of the economic meltdown, Chavismo suffered its worst setback in 17 years of government in December 2015, when it overwhelmingly lost the parliamentary elections, followed by a severe institutional crisis, since the government, with the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), the National Electoral Council (CNE) and other public authorities accused of serving Chavismo, face the opposition-controlled Parliament.
-2016, unsuccessful referendum and dialogue: The TSJ shattered the legislative powers of the opposition by declaring Parliament in contempt and voiding all its decisions. The opposition went to seek a referendum to get Maduro out of power, but in October the CNE suspended the process, arguing allegations of “fraud” in collecting signatures, and postponed gubernatorial elections in 2016.
The opposition called for massive protests, but the pressure dropped when it agreed to a Vatican-sponsored dialogue with government, at a high political cost. In December, opponents stopped negotiations accusing the government of breaching agreements.
-2017, back to the streets: At the end of March, the TSJ assumes the functions of the Parliament and cancelled immunity for the legislators, which was interpreted by the opposition as a coup d’etat.
In parallel, the Comptroller disqualified Capriles to hold public office for 15 years. This leaves the two opponents with greater acceptance in the polls, Capriles and López out of an electoral contest.
After strong international pressure, the rulings of the TSJ were partially annulled. But the opposition launched into the streets in April to demand the dismissal of magistrates, parliamentary autonomy and general elections.
The government rules out early presidential elections, scheduled for December 2018. The protests, which resulted five dead and more than 200 arrests, will continue on Thursday.