Venezuela: a year of power struggle

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido (AFP)

Caracas, Venezuela |A power struggle broke out in oil-rich Venezuela nearly a year ago when National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido declared himself acting president in a bid to remove President Nicolas Maduro.


With the Assembly expected to vote on January 5 to extend Guaido's term, here is an overview of the past year.


- Guaido 'acting president' -

Tensions build after Maduro is sworn in for a second term on January 10, claiming to have won May 2018 elections boycotted by the opposition and internationally dismissed as fraudulent.


At a massive rally in Caracas on January 23, Guaido -- head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly -- declares himself acting president until new elections.


He immediately receives the support of US President Donald Trump, Canada and major Latin American powers. 


Eventually more than 50 countries will acknowledge him as interim president while traditional allies such as China, Cuba and Russia remain behind Maduro, as does the military.


On January 28, Washington orders sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA and hands control of its US bank accounts to Guaido.


- Maduro closes borders -

Trucks loaded with international supplies for impoverished Venezuela begin arriving on the Colombian side of the Tienditas border bridge on February 7.


But Venezuelan troops prevent them from entering and Maduro slams "fake humanitarian aid" as a ploy for a US military "invasion."


He orders the closure of land frontiers with Brazil and Colombia, as well sea and air links with Curacao in the Caribbean.


Defying a ban on leaving the country, Guaido attends on February 22 a Venezuelan aid concert inside Colombia organized by Richard Branson.


The next day, clashes break out at the border with Brazil when the Venezuelan military stops aid from entering. Four people are killed. 


- Uprising fails -

On April 30 Guaido releases a video of himself with a small group of soldiers, for the first time claiming to have support from inside the military and calling for others to join them.


Thousands of his supporters gather nearby and riots erupt in other cities. The government denounces an "attempted military coup".


But the insurrection quickly peters out and 25 rebel soldiers seek refuge in the Brazilian embassy. On May 2 the army publicly pledges loyalty to Maduro.


At least five people are killed in the days of unrest.


- Talks open but stall -

Delegations from the rival sides meet face-to-face in Oslo for the first time in late May for talks under Norwegian auspices.


The meetings end without agreement besides a commitment to continue talking.


On June 8, Maduro orders the reopening of the border with Colombia where international aid has amassed. Thousands of Venezuelans rush to collect food and medicine.


On July 5, a United Nations Human Rights Council report alleges that nearly 7,000 people had been killed in 18 months of security force operations.


Trump, on August 6, orders a freeze on all Venezuelan government assets in the United States. In response, Maduro cancels a new round of talks with Guaido's team.


- Low turnout at Guaido rally -

On October 17, Venezuela wins a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, which a month before had voted to investigate alleged violations in the country. Caracas's critics are outraged. 


On November 16, about 5,000 Guaido supporters demonstrate against Maduro in the opposition's biggest rally since May, but with turnout far lower than expected.


© Agence France-Presse

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