Over the past 90 days, Venezuela has seen near daily demonstrations – with anti- and pro-government protesters taking to the streets.
The political roots of the protests go back to 2016, when the Supreme Court suspended the election of four legislators for alleged voting irregularities.
The opposition swore in three of the legislators. The entire opposition-led National Assembly was in contempt and the Supreme Court ruled that any decisions it made would not stand.
In early 2017, the National Assembly refused to approve the state-run oil company PDVSA forming joint ventures with private companies, the government went to the Supreme Court, which ruled that it would take over the legislative powers of the National Assembly.
Protests broke out the next day. Below a timeline with the key events that have lead to this political unrest.
The Venezuelan constitutional crisis began, with immunity being taken away from opposition parliamentarians by the Supreme Court, with it assuming legislative powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Protesters blocked roads, unfurled banners and chanted slogans against Maduro’s government, including “Freedom!” and “No To Dictatorship!”
Security forces repressed protests that broke out in Venezuela’s capital .
Governments across Latin America condemned the government move, which the head of the Organization of American States likened to a “self-inflicted coup” by socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Venezuela’s supreme court abandoned measures to take over the opposition-led Congress’.
The announcement came hours after Maduro had called the court to annul its initial ruling “in order to maintain institutional stability and the balance of powers.”
With thousands out on both sides, supporters of the 54-year-old president organised their own rally, in a volatile scenario seen constantly during the 18 years of leftist rule in the South American nation.
“They want an intervention in Venezuela,” said prisons ministry worker Juan Aponte, 34, who wore the red colours of the ruling Socialist Party.
Venezuelan authorities confirmed a young man was killed during protests and vowed to investigate the death, the first since a controversy over the Supreme Court blew up.
Jairo Ortiz, a 19-year-old student of the Bicentenary University of Aragua, was shot and killed while protesting in Carrizal, Miranda.
Venezuelan authorities banned top opposition leader Henrique Capriles from running for office for 15 years.
“When the dictatorship squeals it’s a sign we’re advancing,” he said in a speech surrounded by other leading opposition figures, many of whom themselves have been targeted. “The only one who is disqualified here is you, Nicolas Maduro.”
The Supreme Tribunal attacked by protestors
During the protests 16 subway stations, and 19 Caracas Metrobus routes were closed.
The Supreme Tribunal was attacked by violent protestors during the afternoon, burning furniture, breaking windows and damaging the front door.
Student shot during protests
Daniel Queliz, a 19-year-old student of the Arturo Michelena University, was shot and killed during a protest in Valencia by a Carabobo Police officer.
More than 50 individuals wounded were reported.
‘The government cannot continue to protect these groups’
Venezuela’s Catholic church reiterated the call for calm with Archbishop Jorge Urosa Savino saying “the government cannot continue to protect these groups that are acting illegally”.
The opposition announced the ‘mother of all protests’ march to take place on April 19 to “overflow” Caracas.
Venezuela’s defence minister declared the army’s ‘unconditional loyalty’ to President Nicolas Maduro, who ordered troops on to the streets before a major protest by opponents trying to oust him.
President Maduro ordered the expansion of the Venezuelan National Militia to involve 500,000 loyal Venezuelans, stating that each would be armed with a rifle and demanded the prevention of another event similar to the 2002 Venezuelan coup d’état attempt.
Later in the evening, a National Guard sergeant was killed and a colonel wounded when their squad was attacked with gunfire while trying to control disturbances in a city near Caracas, the prosecutor’s office later said.
Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the government would launch a two-year process to pull out of the Washington-based regional diplomatic grouping that it has been a member of for more than 65 years.
Following the death of the student, the son of politician Tarek Saab, uploaded a video on YouTube stating that he had protested that night and that “That could’ve been me!”, condemning what he called and plead to his father saying:
“Dad, in this moment you have the power to end the injustice that has sunk this country. I ask you as your son and in the name of Venezuela, to whom you serve, that you reflect on the situation and do what you have to do”.
Eight Latin American nations, including Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, collectively denounce Venezuela’s “excessive use of force” against civilian protesters after the death toll from anti-government unrest in the country rose to 36.
Protesters in Venezuela lobbed bottles and bags of faeces at soldiers who fought back with tear gas to block the latest march in more than a month of nationwide protests against President Nicolas Maduro.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s chief judge and seven other members of the country’s Supreme Court as punishment for seizing powers from the opposition-led congress earlier this year.
The March of Health occured in Caracas with demonstrators attempting to travel to the Ministry of Health headquarters to protest against the shortages of medicine and other essential medical supplies.
At an open air rally before thousands of red-shirted supporters, Maduro signed a document formally establishing the terms for electing members of a “constituent assembly” that will be tasked with drafting a new constitution.
“Votes or bullets, what do the people want?” Maduro asked the crowd, presenting the proposed 540-member body as a way to defuse increasingly violent protests, which he says are part of a US-backed conspiracy to overthrow “21st Century socialism”.
Security forces in Venezuela used water cannons and tear gas to disperse tens of thousands of opposition protesters heading towards the foreign ministry, as the Organization of American States held another meeting on the crisis.
The move came after the plan to create a super-body known as a constituent assembly to rewrite the national charter was criticised not just by opponents, but also some within government, as anti-democratic.
Ortega, a strong critic of President Nicolas Maduro, has been called a “traitor” by the ruling Socialists since March when she opposed a bid by the Supreme Tribunal to strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its powers.
Members of Venezuela’s protested at the summit of the Organisation of American States in Mexico, saying that not enough members were ready to call for action against the Venezuelan government over the country’s historic economic crisis.
The regional diplomatic bloc was unable to agree on how to resolve the crisis in Venezuela, where anti-government protests have been ongoing for more than two months and clashes with security forces have killed at least 70 people.
A police helicopter has dropped grenades on Venezuela’s Supreme Court building and fired shots at the interior ministry in what President Nicolas Maduro called a “terror attack” against his government.
In the afternoon, a video is released showing men with assault rifles flanking Oscar Perez, an actor and investigator of CICPC, Venezuela’s investigative agency, stating that “We are nationalists, patriots and institutionalists.This fight is not with the rest of the state forces, it is against the tyranny of this government”.
President Maduro stated that a military rebellion had occurred while opposition officials said that the actions were staged so Maduro could justify a crackdown on those who oppose his government and the constitutional assembly.