Venezuela Crisis Was Years in the Making. Here’s How It Happened.
In 24 hours, a 35-year-old Venezuelan opposition leader declared himself the country’s president, the United States recognized him as the legitimate head of state, and President Nicolás Maduro ordered American diplomats out of the country.
The crisis is years in the making, and our reporters have covered it throughout (despite, in one case, being kicked out of the country). Here is a guide to that coverage:
The Economic Crisis
Venezuela once had Latin America’s richest economy, buoyed by oil reserves larger even than Saudi Arabia’s and Iran’s. Yet under Mr. Maduro and his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013, Venezuela’s economy spiraled into mismanagement, corruption and backbreaking debt.
Hunger is killing Venezuelan children at an alarming rate, doctors say, as stores have run out of food and children are suffering severe malnutrition.
The country’s hospitals are “like something from the 19th century,” one doctor has said, collapsing under chronic shortages of antibiotics, food and other supplies.
The Path to Two Presidents
The economic collapse began in the ways Mr. Chávez wrested power, paid for loyalty with oil and purged his enemies, our Interpreter columnists wrote in 2017. After he inherited a collapsing economy, Mr. Maduro granted the military control of lucrative industries and printed money to dole out patronage — worsening the crisis, but retaining power.
Mr. Maduro has also held on by stifling dissent: Human rights groups say he has arrested more than 12,800 people. In 2018, he won a widely criticized re-election, with reports of coercion, fraud and electoral rigging.
Mr. Maduro has also cracked down on the press — including The New York Times, kicking a correspondent out of the country in 2016.
Divided and stifled, the opposition had struggled to pose a challenge to Mr. Maduro until a National Assembly leader, Juan Guaidó, managed to rally its factions in recent months. Mr. Guaidó, a 35-year-old industrial engineer who was little known at home or abroad until this month, declared himself president on Wednesday.