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A Timeline Of Venezuela's Months Of Protests And Political Crisis

08/08/2017 3:54 AM AEST | Updated 08/08/2017 7:02 AM AEST
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Venezuela has been in a state of escalating political and economic crisis for months now, as the ruling government of President Nicolas Maduro has moved to consolidate power and change the country’s constitution amid continuous public protests.  

Over the weekend, Venezuela saw more cracks in its political stability. The country’s attorney general and prominent Maduro critic Luisa Ortega was ousted from her position on Saturday. A day later, authorities announced they had put down a rebellion in the city of Valencia after a group of men in military uniforms posted a video online announcing an uprising against the government.

The latest developments in Venezuela’s long-running decline in political stability and economic growth have pushed the crisis into a new phase, with the ruling party inching closer to complete control over the country’s politics following the election of a new all-powerful legislative body.

Here is a timeline of the major events from Venezuela’s tumultuous past few months, which have left at least 125 people dead.

March 29 ― Supreme Court Aims To Strip Congress Of Power

Venezuela’s pro-Maduro Supreme Court takes action to strip the country’s opposition-controlled Congress, the National Assembly, of its legislative abilities. The move sparks mass protests and furthers the divide between Maduro’s ruling party and the political opposition over leadership of the country.

In removing the National Assembly of its powers, the Supreme Court gives itself the power to write laws.

April 1 ― The Court Backtracks

Following days of protest and subsequent police crackdowns, the Supreme Court announces that it is reversing parts of its decision to take over the powers of the National Assembly. Demonstrators and Venezuela’s political opposition continue to criticize Maduro’s government, saying the ruling party is still attempting to damage the rule of law in the country despite the reversal.

Carlos Eduardo Ramirez / Reuters
Opposition supporters clash with police during protests against unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal, Venezuela, on April 19.

April 19 ― The Protests Grow In Scale

Weeks of demonstrations reach new levels with what activists term the “mother of all marches,” as tens of thousands rally in the streets against the Maduro government and its targeting of democratic institutions in Venezuela.

At least three people are killed and dozens injured in the demonstration. Protests continue throughout the month, with the death toll steadily rising as clashes sporadically erupt between police and protesters.

May 3 ― Maduro Announces Constituent Assembly

Maduro announces plans to call an election to establish a new legislative body, the Constituent Assembly, which will have sweeping powers to rewrite the country’s constitution. The new body will have the ability to dissolve the opposition-led National Assembly and make its own laws.

Maduro’s announcement sparks days of rallies against the planned changes, as well as deadly crackdowns from security forces as the cumulative death toll from protests reaches into the dozens.

May 18 ― U.S. Sanctions Judges

The U.S. announces sanctions on members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court in retaliation for their attempt to seize power from the National Assembly. The measures bar the sanctioned judges from the United States and freeze their assets in the country. The death toll in continued protests at this time reaches 45.

June 20 ― Attorney General Targeted

Venezuela’s Supreme Court approves of legal action against Ortega, a member of the ruling leftist party turned prominent Maduro critic who opposed the court’s attempted takeover of the National Assembly. 

STR via Getty Images
Members of the National Guard stands in the area where according to authorities grenades were thrown from a helicopter, at the Supreme Court in Caracas on June 29.

June 27 ― Helicopter Attack On The Supreme Court

In a bizarre incident, Venezuelan police officer and actor Oscar Perez launches a helicopter attack on the Supreme Court. Perez drops grenades from the stolen helicopter, but causes no injuries. A video featuring Perez is posted online, in which he declares he carried out the attack to return constitutional order.

July 3 ― The Opposition Announces Its Own Referendum

Venezuela’s opposition announces plans to hold a referendum of its own, in a response to Maduro’s planned election for the all-powerful Constituent Assembly. 

July 16 ― The Opposition Holds Symbolic Vote

Millions vote in the opposition’s symbolic referendum on whether they approve of Maduro’s plans for a new constitution. Venezuelans who have migrated from the country also take part in the poll, gathering at voting stations in numerous countries around the world. Gunmen kill one woman and injure several others in a deadly attack in Venezuela during the vote.

July 28 ― U.S. Orders Families Of Embassy Workers To Leave

As Maduro’s Constituent Assembly election nears, the U.S. orders all family members of U.S. embassy employees to leave the country due to safety concerns. Protests and clashes continue, with the death toll from demonstrations at over 100 since April.

Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters
An injured demonstrator is seen at a rally during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 26.

July 30 ― Maduro Holds Constituent Assembly Election

Venezuela’s ruling government holds an opposition-boycotted vote for the Constituent Assembly. The candidates include many Maduro loyalists, including the president’s own wife Cilia Flores.

Deadly clashes between protesters and security forces occur throughout the day, including one incident in which a roadside bomb injures several motorcycle police in the capital of Caracas. Following the vote, countries including the United States, Spain and Canada, as well as regional powers such as Colombia and Brazil, declare the result illegitimate. 

Maduro hails the vote as a victory and vows to press ahead with the Constituent Assembly.

July 31 ― U.S. Sanctions Maduro

The United States announces sanctions on Maduro, calling him a “dictator” and barring Americans from doing business with him. Maduro mocks the sanctions and U.S. President Donald Trump, telling supporters, “I don’t take orders from the empire.”

Aug. 1 ― Opposition Leaders Taken In Raids

Just days after the Constituent Assembly election, two prominent opposition members are taken from their home in the middle of the night. Politicians Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, both former mayors of Caracas, are seized in overnight raids, according to their families.

Lopez’s wife posts a video showing the opposition leader being taken away by what appears to be intelligence agency forces and led into a van.  

SOPA Images via Getty Images
Riot police on their motorcycles charge on anti-government activists as they protest against the newly inaugurated Constituent Assembly.

Aug. 2 ― Election Turnout Allegedly Manipulated

The U.K.-based company that oversees Venezuela’s automated voting process, Smartmatic, declares that the turnout figures in the Constituent Assembly election were manipulated. Smartmatic estimates a discrepancy of at least 1 million votes between their count and the turnout numbers announced by the Maduro government.

Aug. 4 ― The Constituent Assembly Is Inaugurated

The pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly is inaugurated, deepening Venezuela’s political crisis and stirring fears that the new assembly will quickly move to hollow out the country’s democratic institutions. 

Aug. 5 ― Luisa Ortega Ousted

The new Constituent Assembly votes to fire Attorney General Luisa Ortega during the body’s first session, replacing her with pro-Maduro figure Tarek William Saab. Ortega tries to enter her office but National Guard members block her path, and she leaves the scene on a motorcycle.

“This country has lost its freedom,” Ortega says during a press conference following her ouster. 

Aug. 6 ― Authorities Claim To Put Down Rebellion

Venezuelan authorities announce they have stopped a military rebellion in the city of Valencia, after a video is posted online showing several men in military uniforms declaring an uprising against the government. The unrest, which leaves two dead, includes reports of gunfire and protesters rallying in the street to support the uprising.

Elsewhere in the country, opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez is returned to house arrest.

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