Venezuela Fast Facts

About Venezuela:
(from the CIA World Factbook)
Area: 912,050 sq km, about two times the size of California
Population: 31,304,016 (July 2017 est.)
    Median age: 28 years old
    Capital: Caracas
    Ethnic Groups: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African and indigenous groups
    Religion: Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%
    GDP (purchasing power parity): $427 billion (2016 est.)
    GDP per capita: $13,800 (2016 est.)
    Unemployment: 10.5% (2016 est.)
    Other Facts:
    Venezuela is located on the northern coast of South America, sharing a border with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana.
    The country's formal name is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
    Venezuela has proven oil reserves of approximately 302.25 billion barrels.
    Despite being one of the world's top oil-producing countries, more than 30% of Venezuelans live below the poverty line as of 2015.
    Timeline:
    1520s - First settlement by Spanish explorers.
    July 5, 1811 - Venezuela declares its independence from Spain.
    1821 - The Spanish Army is defeated. Venezuela gains independence as part of the Republic of Gran Colombia.
    1830 - Venezuela breaks away from the federation to become an independent republic.
    1958 - After decades of political instability and military rule, a coup leads to democratic reforms that culminate with a presidential election. Rómulo Betancourt is elected president.
    February 1992 - A coup led by Hugo Chavez is defeated. Chavez spends two years in prison before being pardoned.
    November 1992 - Another coup attempt is defeated.
    December 1998 - Chavez is elected president.
    1999 - Chavez introduces a new constitution that extends his term, allows him to run again, closes the Congress and changes the name of the country to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. He also signs a law that allows him to bypass the Venezuelan Congress on economic reforms.
    July 30, 2000 - Chavez is re-elected.
    April 11-13 2002 - A coup ousts Chavez for two days. Sixty people are killed during the turmoil.
    October 22, 2002 - High-ranking military officers go on national television to denounce Chavez and call for the public to rally against him.
    December 2, 2002 - A general strike begins. The strike lasts 64 days, costs Venezuela $4 billion in oil revenues and affects oil prices worldwide. During the strike, crude output is estimated at about 400,000 barrels a day, compared to the pre-strike level of 3 million barrels a day.
    February 2, 2003 - Venezuelan opposition leaders stage a petition drive, collecting thousands of signatures endorsing several demands including the immediate removal of Chavez.
    October 5, 2003 - A campaign to recall Chavez begins.
    June 3, 2004 - Venezuela's National Electoral Council announces that the opposition has collected enough valid signatures to call for a referendum against Chavez.
    August 15, 2004 - Initial results in the recall referendum show more than 58% of Venezuelans have voted to keep Chavez in office while 42% favor ousting him. The next day, a group of observers led by former US President Jimmy Carter announce that they found no fraud in the recall election.
    December 3, 2006 - Chavez wins re-election.
    February 15, 2009 - A constitutional referendum passes that will allow Chavez to run for a third six-year term in 2012.
    May 24, 2011 - The United States imposes sanctions against seven companies, including Venezuela's state oil company, for supporting Iran in the energy sector.
    May 2012 - As Chavez's health declines, he appoints ten people to a commission called the Council of State. The move prompts speculation about who will succeed Chavez.
    October 7, 2012 - Chavez is re-elected.
    March 5, 2013 - Chavez dies of cancer at the age of 58. Vice President Nicolás Maduro becomes the interim president.
    April 14, 2013 - Maduro narrowly wins the presidential election with 50.8% of the vote, defeating opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski.
    September 30, 2013 - Maduro announces on state-run TV that he is expelling three US diplomats. He claims they were involved in acts to destabilize the country.
    February 2014 - Protests are held in response to economic problems and a spike in crime. Some demonstrations turn violent, with at least three protestors dying amid the unrest.
    February 18, 2014 - Opposition leader Leopoldo López is arrested. He is charged with conspiracy and murder in connection with the demonstrations. He is later convicted and sentenced to more than 13 years in prison.
    December 18, 2014 - The US Congress passes the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, a measure that directs the United States to impose sanctions against Venezuelan officials who engage in human rights abuses.
    February 20, 2015 - The mayor of Caracas is arrested and accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the government. The opposition says the mayor's arrest is an attempt to divert attention from the country's economic woes.
    March 9, 2015 - US President Barack Obama issues an executive order meant to address the human rights crisis in Venezuela, with sanctions against seven individuals.
    December 6, 2015 - Venezuela's opposition party wins the majority of seats in elections to the National Assembly, a repudiation of Maduro. It is the first major shift in power in the legislative branch since Chavez took office in 1999.
    March 9, 2016 - President Maduro announces he's recalling Maximilien Arvelaiz, Venezuela's top diplomat in Washington.
    October 2016 - After a recall referendum to oust Maduro is halted, opposition lawmakers meet for a special session to discuss the possibility of impeaching Maduro. Pro-government protestors break into the assembly hall to disrupt the meeting.
    March 29, 2017 - The Venezuelan Supreme Court strips the National Assembly of power. The court rules that all powers vested under the legislative body will be transferred to the Supreme Court. Opposition leaders say that the move is comparable to a coup.
    April 2, 2017 - After several days of protests, the decision to transfer all legislative powers to the Supreme Court is reversed.
    April 7, 2017 - The Venezuelan government notifies Henrique Capriles Radonski that he is banned from any political work for 15 years. Capriles responds by stating that the government is violating the civil rights of protestors.
    April 17, 2017 - Maduro orders armed forces into the streets following weeks of deadly, anti-government protests.
    May 1, 2017 - Maduro announces that he has signed an executive order paving the way for changes in the constitution that will reshape the legislature and redefine his executive powers. Opposition leaders express concern that the changes could enable Maduro to consolidate power in the executive branch.
    June 27, 2017 - A stolen police helicopter, allegedly piloted by Oscar Perez -- an officer in Venezuela's investigative police force, circles around several high-profile buildings in Caracas, including the Interior Ministry and the Venezuelan Supreme Court. Photos posted online show an occupant holding a banner that says, "Article 350 libertad" -- referring to an article in the Venezuelan constitution that allows citizens to oppose the government should it subvert democratic principles. Officials say attackers fired gunshots and lobbed grenades from the helicopter. Witnesses and local journalists say the assault went on for about two hours.
    July 5, 2017 - On the anniversary of Venezuela's independence, supporters of President Maduro, armed with pipes, sticks and stones, storm the country's National Assembly in Caracas and attack opposition lawmakers. At least seven legislative employees and five lawmakers are injured, according to National Assembly President Julio Borges.
    July 16, 2017 - Nearly 7.2 million Venezuelans take part in a non-binding referendum organized by the country's main opposition parties. More than 98% of voters choose to reject the proposed constitutional assembly; request the military defend the existing constitution; and support fresh elections before Maduro's term ends in 2019. The government condemns the referendum as illegal, and instead calls for a July 30 vote to elect a special assembly to rewrite the 1999 constitution.
    July 30, 2017 - Deadly clashes between protesters and police mar voting, as Venezuelans cast ballots for a new lawmaking body, to be known as the Constituent Assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the constitution. There are 545 seats up for grabs and those elected would essentially replace the current National Assembly -- which is controlled by opponents of President Maduro's government. Representatives of Venezuela's opposition and leaders abroad have spoken out against the vote, saying it will erase the last remaining vestiges of democracy in the crisis-ridden country.
    July 31, 2017 - US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announces all President Maduro's assets that are subject to US jurisdiction will be frozen, and all US citizens are barred from dealing with him. Last week, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 13 government and military officials tied to Maduro. Mexico and Colombia followed with sanctions on the same individuals.
    August 2, 2017 - London-based Smartmatic, which provided the voting technology for Sunday's controversial vote, says that the National Electoral Council voting numbers of more than 8 million people -- about 41.53% of registered voters -- are off by 1 million votes. The council's Tibisay Lucena refutes the assertions, stating that Smartmatic is a technology support company and wouldn't have access to the final vote numbers.
    August 5, 2017 - The National Constituent Assembly holds its first session and issues its first order of business: the immediate removal of Attorney General Ortega. Tarek William Saab, a Maduro ally and former ombudsman, is sworn in as the interim attorney general.
    September 24, 2017 - The Trump administration announces new travel restrictions on certain foreigners in eight countries, including Venezuela. These restrictions suspend the entry of certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members as nonimmigrants on some business and tourism visas.