Venezuela crisis in 300 words

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image copyrightGetty Images
image captionNicolás Maduro remains in the presidential palace and in control of almost all institutions

Venezuela is engulfed in a political crisis with two rival politicians claiming to be the country's legitimate leader.

How did this happen?

Venezuela has been governed for the past 20 years by the socialist PSUV party. From 1999 to his death in 2013, Hugo Chávez was president. He was succeeded by his right-hand man, Nicolás Maduro.

During its more than two decades in power, the PSUV has gained control of many key institutions including much of the judiciary, the electoral council and the supreme court.

But under President Maduro, Venezuela's economy collapsed. Shortages of basic supplies became widespread, prompting more than 5 million people to leave.

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image captionMore than five million Venezuelans have fled the country in the past years, many on foot

In December 2016, opposition parties won a majority in the National Assembly, and the legislature became a thorn in President Maduro's side.

In response, he created the National Constituent Assembly, made up exclusively of government supporters whose powers supersede those of the National Assembly. The two bodies have been at loggerheads ever since.

Mr Maduro was re-elected in 2018 but the poll was widely dismissed as rigged. National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó labelled Mr Maduro a "usurper" and declared himself interim president in January 2019.

image copyrightEPA
image captionMr Guaidó invoked a paragraph in the constitution which allows for such a step when the presidency is left vacant

More than 50 countries recognised Mr Guaidó but the Venezuelan military, a key player in the country, has remained loyal to Mr Maduro.

Mr Maduro has remained in the presidential palace and in charge of the country.

A number of opposition politicians have been arrested and many have fled the country, including Juan Guaidó's mentor, Leopoldo López.

media captionVenezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo López explains why he left his home country

The US, which has sided with Mr Guaidó, has imposed sanctions on Mr Maduro, his inner circle and Venezuela's oil industry, making it hard to get fuel and foreign currency.

Meanwhile, opposition parties are divided over strategy. With most boycotting legislative elections, the National Assembly looks set to come under the control of Mr Maduro's party as well.

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