What Is Happening in Venezuela and Why It Matters

Venezuela in Crisis: Guaidó vs. Maduro

For more than three months, the Venezuela opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, has been exhorting the armed forces to join his side in ousting President Nicolás Maduro. On Tuesday Mr. Guaidó made his plea at a military base in the heart of Caracas, the capital, raising speculation that the military might be ready to heed him.

Clashes erupted outside the base and elsewhere as Mr. Maduro’s government and his supporters called Mr. Guaidó’s maneuver an attempted coup.

Here is how Venezuela, once one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries, has reached this point in an economic and political crisis.

Just two weeks after Mr. Maduro was sworn in for a second term in January, Mr. Guaidó declared himself the interim president, directly challenging the country’s leadership.

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in support of Mr. Guaidó. The United States, Canada, and many Latin American and European countries recognized him as the legitimate head of state.

Mr. Maduro, in return, severed remaining diplomatic ties with the United States. He also stopped an effort by Guaidó and his foreign allies to bring large amounts of aid into Venezuela, sealing off the border with Colombia and Brazil.

Mr. Maduro, who assumed the presidency after the death of his mentor, Hugo Chávez, in 2013, has overseen a drastic unraveling of Venezuela’s economy. While he has blamed sanctions imposed by the United States, others have attributed Venezuela’s economic demise to mismanagement and corruption.

Mr. Maduro has centralized power in the executive branch, suppressing dissent through violence and intimidation, and winning the loyalty of the military by giving it control of lucrative industries.

Mr. Guaidó says his intention now is to serve as the interim president of the country until new national elections can be held, a right he and the National Assembly assert is protected under Venezuela’s constitution. Mr. Guaidó has not yet said when elections might be held.

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