A chronology of key events:
1498-99 - Christopher Columbus and Alonso de Ojeda visit Venezuela, which is inhabited by Carib, Arawak and Chibcha peoples.
1521 - Spanish colonisation begins on the north-east coast.
1749 - First rebellion against Spanish colonial rule.
1810 - Venezuelan patriots take advantage of Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Spain to declare independence.
1811 - Independence Act signed.
1829-30 - Venezuela secedes from Gran Colombia and becomes an independent republic with its capital at Caracas.
1870-88 - Venezuela governed by Antonio Guzman Blanco, who attracts foreign investment, modernises infrastructure and develops agriculture and education.
Much of Venezuela's oil is bought by the US
- Venezuela is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter
- Exports to China are set to rise substantially
1902 - Venezuela fails to repay loans and, as a result, its ports are blockaded by British, Italian and German warships.
1908-35 - Dictator Juan Vicente Gomez governs at a time when Venezuela becomes world's largest exporter of oil.
1947-48 - President Romulo Gallegos, Venezuela's first democratically elected leader, overthrown within eight months in military coup led by Marcos Perez Jimenez, who forms government with backing from the armed forces and the US.Democratic rule
1958 - Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabal ousts Marcos Perez Jimenez; leftist Romulo Betancourt of the Democratic Action Party (AD) wins democratic presidential election.
1960 - Movement of the Revolutionary Left splits from AD and commences anti-government work.
1964 - Venezuela's first presidential handover from one civilian to another takes place when Dr Raul Leoni (AD) is elected president.Boom and bust
1973 - Venezuela benefits from oil boom and its currency peaks against the US dollar; oil and steel industries nationalised.
1983-84 - Fall in world oil prices generates unrest and cuts in welfare spending; Dr Jaime Lusinchi (AD) elected president and signs pact involving government, trade unions and business.
1999 flood disaster
Tens of thousands perished in the 1999 flood disaster
1989 - Carlos Andres Perez (AD) elected president against the background of economic depression, which necessitates an austerity programme and an IMF loan. Social and political upheaval includes riots, in which between 300 and 2,000 people are killed, martial law and a general strike.
1992 - Some 120 people are killed in two attempted coups, the first led by future president Colonel Hugo Chavez, and the second carried out by his supporters. Chavez is jailed for two years before being pardoned.
1993-95 - Ramon Jose Velasquez becomes interim president after Perez is ousted on charges of corruption; Rafael Caldera elected president.
1996 - Perez imprisoned after being found guilty of embezzlement and corruption.
1998 - Hugo Chavez elected president.
1999 - Severe floods and mudslides hit the north, killing tens of thousands of people.
2000 - Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel discloses plot to kill Chavez. Chavez wins another six years in office and a mandate to pursue political reforms.
Chavez becomes the first foreign head of state to visit Iraq since the 1991 Gulf war, in defiance of strong opposition from the US.Reform controversy
2001 November - President Chavez appears on TV to hail 49 reform laws which his government has introduced, including land and oil industry reforms, under powers which did not require them to be approved by the National Assembly.
Hugo Chavez makes an emotional televised address after surviving a coup attempt
2002 February - National currency, the bolivar, plummets 25% against the US dollar after the government scraps exchange rate controls.
2002 25 February - Chavez appoints new board of directors to state oil monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela in move opposed by executives.
2002 9 April - Trade unions and the Fedecamaras business association declare general strike to support Petroleos de Venezuela dissidents.Chavez ouster
2002 11 April - Some 150,000 people rally in support of strike and oil protest. National Guard and pro-Chavez gunmen clash with protesters - more than 10 are killed and 110 injured. Military high command rebels and demands that Chavez resign.
2002 April 12 - Armed forces head announces Chavez has resigned, a claim later denied by Chavez. Chavez is taken into military custody. Military names Pedro Carmona, one of the strike organisers, as head of transitional government.
2002 April 14 - Chavez returns to office after the collapse of the interim government.
2002 December - Opposition strike cripples the oil industry. Organisers demand that Chavez resign. The nine-week stoppage leads to fuel shortages.Referendum petitions
2003 May - Government, opposition sign deal brokered by Organisation of American States (OAS) which sets out framework for referendum on Hugo Chavez's rule.
Venezuelans in 2004 voted down a move to remove Hugo Chavez from the presidency
2003 August-September - Opposition delivers petition with more than three million signatures demanding referendum on Chavez's rule. Electoral body rejects petition saying it fails to meet technical requirements.
2003 December - Second petition demanding referendum on rule of Hugo Chavez is delivered. Opposition says it contains 3.4 million signatures.
2004 March - Several people are killed and many are injured in clashes between opponents and supporters of President Chavez.
2004 August - President Chavez wins referendum in which Venezuelans are asked whether he should serve out the remaining two-and-a-half years of his term.Land reform
2005 January - President Chavez signs decree on land reform which aims to eliminate Venezuela's large estates. President says land redistribution will bring justice to rural poor; ranchers say move is an attack on private property.
Bitter dispute with Colombia over the capture of a Colombian rebel Farc leader on Venezuelan soil. The presidents of both nations resolve the affair at talks in Caracas in February.
2005 June - Venezuela and 13 Caribbean states launch a regional oil company at a summit in Caracas. Venezuela, a major producer, agrees to supply the nations with cheap fuel. Critics accuse President Chavez of using oil to increase diplomatic influence.
2005 December - Parties loyal to President Chavez make big gains in parliamentary elections. Opposition parties boycott the poll, leaving parliament entirely made up of supporters of the president.
2006 July - President Chavez signs a $3bn (£1.6bn) arms deal with Russia, including an agreement to buy fighter jets and helicopters.
2006 December - Hugo Chavez wins a third term in presidential elections with 63% of the vote.Nationalisation drive
2007 January - President Chavez announces that key energy and telecommunications companies will be nationalised.
National Assembly grants President Chavez sweeping powers to rule by decree for the next eighteen months.
Opposition supporters celebrate a rare poll defeat for President Chavez in the 2007 referendum
2007 March - President Chavez says 16 large farms have been seized for redistribution under a land reform plan.
2007 May - Government takes control of oil projects in the Orinoco Delta as part of the nationalisation drive.
Thousands gather in Caracas to mourn, or celebrate, the government's closure of the RCTV channel which has been critical of President Chavez.
2007 June - Two leading US oil companies, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhilips, refuse to hand over majority control of their operations in the Orinoco Belt to the Venezuelan government.
2007 December - Mr Chavez suffers his first defeat at the ballot box, when voters in a referendum narrowly reject proposals to extend his powers and accelerate his socialist revolution.Diplomatic crisis
2008 January, February - After President Chavez's mediation with the Farc, the Colombian rebel group releases six hostages.
Relations with Colombia deteriorate after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe rejects Mr Chavez's call for left-wing rebels to be treated as insurgents instead of terrorists.
2008 March - Diplomatic crisis after Colombian armed forces make cross-border raid into Ecuador, a Venezuelan ally, killing senior Farc rebel Raul Reyes. Mr Chavez mobilises troops along Venezuelan-Colombian border.
2008 July - Relations with Colombia begin to improve again in the wake of the freeing of Farc's most high-profile hostage, Ingrid Betancourt. Mr Uribe visits Venezuela for talks with Mr Chavez.
2008 August - President Chavez announces plans to nationalise one of the country's largest private banks, the Spanish-owned Bank of Venezuela.
Mexican cement giant Cemex seeks World Bank arbitration over Venezuelan nationalisation of local subsidiary, which the company deems illegal.
Government lifts some price controls on staple foods in an attempt to avert shortages.Ties with Russia
2008 September - Government approves nationalisation of household fuel distributors and petrol stations.
Venezuela and Russia sign oil and gas cooperation accord. Russian warplanes visit Venezuela, with Russian warships heading there for November joint exercises - first return of Russian navy to Americas since Cold War.
Constitutional change allows President Chavez to stand for a third term
Venezuela expels US ambassador in solidarity with similar Bolivian move. US reciprocates.
2008 October - First Venezuelan telecommunications satellite launched from China.
2008 November - Opposition makes gains in regional elections and wins Caracas mayoral poll. President Chavez's allies retain control of 17 out of 22 governorships.
Russia and Venezuela sign accord on joint civilian nuclear cooperation.
2009 February - Voters in a referendum approve plans to abolish limits on the number of terms in office for elected officials. This would allow President Chavez to stand again when his current term expires in 2012.Tensions with Colombia
2009 July - Relations with Colombia begin to deteriorate again after plans are announced to allow US troops to use Colombian military bases as part of a drive to curb drug-trafficking.
2009 August - Tensions between the two neighbours increase still further after Bogota accuses Venezuela of supplying arms to Farc rebels, and Mr Chavez accuses Colombia of allowing its troops to stray over their common border.
2009 November - The diplomatic row escalates after the Colombian government and the US sign their long-trailed deal on the use of Colombia's military bases. President Chavez orders 15,000 troops to the Colombian border, citing increased violence by Colombian paramilitary groups.
2010 January - President Chavez devalues the bolivar, by 17% against the US dollar for "priority" imports and by 50% for items considered non-essential, to boost revenue from oil exports.
Six TV channels taken off air for breaking rules on transmitting government material.
2010 March - Economy shrank by 5.8 % in last three months of 2009, according to the central bank.
2010 July - Venezuela cuts diplomatic ties with Colombia after being accused of harbouring Farc rebels.
2010 August - Colombia and Venezuela restore diplomatic ties.
2010 September - Parliamentary elections. Opposition makes significant gains. The socialist party of Mr Chavez still controls congress, but with a reduced majority.Alliance with Iran
2010 October - Mr Chavez visits Iran, where he and the Iranian president promise to deepen their "strategic alliance" against US "imperialism".
2010 December - Parliament grants Mr Chavez special powers to deal with the aftermath of devastating floods, which critics say will turn the country into a near-dictatorship.
2011 June - Mr Chavez begins a year-long course of cancer treatment in Cuba, which includes several extended stays there and a reduced workload.
2011 October - Venezuelan opposition TV channel Globovision is fined $2.1m for coverage of a prison riot in June, which the media regulator says had "justified crime and fuelled public anxiety". Globovision accuses the government of trying to shut it down.
2011 November - Government introduces price controls on many basic goods in an attempt to curb the 27% annual inflation rate, one of the highest in the world. Initial price controls on a few basic goods were imposed in 2003.
2011 December - Venezuela hosts the inaugural meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), which aims to challenge the US-based Organisation of American States for regional primacy. It excludes the US, Canada, the Netherlands, and British and Danish dependencies, but includes Cuba.
2012 April - Government extends price controls on more basic goods in the battle against inflation. President Chavez threatens to expropriate companies that do not comply with the price controls.
2012 June - Hugo Chavez registers to run for another term in October's presidential election, saying his doctors deem him fit to serve after he completed his course of cancer treatment in Cuba in May.
2012 July - Opposition TV channel Globovision pays a $2.1m fine to avoid having its assets seized. The media regulator imposed the fine in October over Globovision coverage of a prison riot.
After a six-year wait, Venezuela becomes a full member of regional trading bloc Mercosur.
2012 October - President Chavez wins a fourth term in office, with 54% of the vote on an official turnout at about 81%. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles concedes.
2012 December - President Chavez returns to Cuba for further cancer surgery, after naming Vice-President Nicolas Maduro as his preferred choice as successor in the case of his health failing.
2013 March - President Chavez dies.
2013 April - Nicolas Maduro is elected president.