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Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations

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Technical Report

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Congressional Research Service Washington United States

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Although historically the United States has had close relations with Venezuela, a major oil supplier, friction in bilateral relations increased under the leftist, populist government of President Hugo Chvez 1999-2013, who died in March 2013 after battling cancer. After Chvezs death, Venezuela held presidential elections in April 2013 in which acting President Nicols Maduro narrowly defeated Henrique Capriles of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable MUD, with the opposition alleging significant irregularities. In 2014, the Maduro government violently suppressed protests and imprisoned a major opposition figure, Leopoldo Lpez, along with two opposition mayors. In December 2015, the MUD initially won a two-thirds supermajority in National Assembly elections, a major defeat for the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela PSUV. The Maduro government subsequently thwarted the legislatures power by preventing four MUD representatives from taking office denying the opposition a supermajority and using the Supreme Court to block bills approved by the legislature. Opposition efforts are now focused on attempts to recall President Maduro through a national referendum, but many observers fear that the government is stalling to delay such a vote until after January 10, 2017. A recall on or prior to that date would yield a new presidential election. A recall after that date would result in President Maduros appointed vice president assuming the presidency for the remainder of Maduros term, through 2018. Organization of American States OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter on the situation in Venezuela in May 2016, and the OAS Permanent Council met on June 23 to receive the Secretary Generals report but did not take further action.

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