Skip to main content

Venezuela: What's the crisis about?

By Faith Karimi and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 2:59 AM EST, Fri February 21, 2014
A member of the Bolivarian National Police clashes with protestors during a demonstration against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Saturday, May 10. Clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces have left more than 40 people dead and about 800 injured since February, according to officials. A member of the Bolivarian National Police clashes with protestors during a demonstration against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Saturday, May 10. Clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces have left more than 40 people dead and about 800 injured since February, according to officials.
HIDE CAPTION
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Murder, terror charges against opposition leader Lopez dropped; new charges brought
  • Nationwide student protests started this month
  • They attracted global attention when three people were killed
  • Protesters want better security, an end to goods shortages, protected freedom of speech

Editor's note: Have you witnessed the protests in Venezuela? Share your experiences with CNN iReport, but please stay safe.

(CNN) -- Venezuelans have taken to the streets in recent days, leading to gruesome clashes between protesters and police. Their demands are varied, from economic to social. Here's a Q and A to bring you up to speed with what's going on.

When did the protests in Venezuela begin?

Nationwide student protests started this month. On February 12, the demonstrations attracted global attention when three people were killed.

Demonstrators are demanding better security, an end to goods shortages and protected freedom of speech.

Who is opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez?
Protest leader releases vid to supporters
CNN cameras taken at gunpoint

Major social and economic problems have fueled the protests. But as the demonstrations gained steam, officials have pointed fingers at other factors and accused the United States of plotting to destabilize the government.

Some blame Venezuela's government, led by President Nicolas Maduro, for those problems. Maduro and other officials blame the opposition for the security and economic problems.

The protests are the largest Maduro has faced in his 11 months in power. He has called opposition members fascists and compared them to an infection that needs to be cured.

Who's protesting?

Many demonstrators across the country are students, but prominent opposition politicians have also joined marches.

Since February 13, more than 2,000 stories from Venezuela have been uploaded to iReport, CNN's user-generated platform. Many of the videos and photos are gruesome, and depict violent scenes between demonstrators and police.

Who are some of the opposition figures involved?

You'll be hearing a lot about opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez in the coming days. He's become the opposition's face of demonstrations against the government. Lopez was detained this week on terrorism and murder charges, but prosecutors dropped those charges, replacing them with arson and conspiracy counts, his lawyer said Thursday.

What did Lopez do?

Lopez was arrested in connection with the deaths of four anti-government protesters and a government supporter in clashes nationwide. He was targeted because he organized protests.

He has denied the charges, which the human rights group Amnesty International said "smack of a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country." Human Rights Watch weighed in, too, warning that Venezuela must avoid "scapegoating" political opponents.

You mentioned something about a U.S. plot to destabilize Venezuela ...

Rival groups take over Caracas streets
Venezuelan economy at center of protests
Youth stage protests in Venezuela

Yes. Top Venezuelan officials have accused the United States of trying to destabilize the government. This week, Venezuela gave three U.S. diplomats 48 hours to leave the country, accusing them of conspiring to bring down the government.

At a rally Tuesday, Maduro shouted, "Yankee, go home" from the stage, drawing cheers from the crowd.

U.S. President Barack Obama was not amused.

"Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people," Obama said.

Is this the first time Venezuela has had protests?

No. Bitter protests and counterprotests by supporters and opponents of the government have threatened political stability in Venezuela over the past decade.

Many of Maduro's claims -- of U.S. intervention, of assassination plots -- were also lobbed by the late President Hugo Chavez. Chavez was briefly ousted in a coup in 2002, but otherwise outlasted the protests and repeatedly won re-election.

What happened to Hugo Chavez?

He ruled for 14 years until his death last year after a long battle with cancer. Maduro, who was then his vice president, won the presidential election and is now running the country.

What's the latest?

Lopez remained in a military prison Thursday. His wife, Lilian Tintori de Lopez, called on supporters to keep the pressure on the government.

"Don't give up," she said. "I won't."

Tell me more about Venezuela

Venezuela is on the northern coast of South America and shares a border with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana. Its formal name is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The oil-rich nation -- one of the world's top 10 oil exporting countries worldwide -- has a population of about 30 million.

READ: Venezuelan opposition leader Lopez remains behind bars

READ: Cheered by supporters, Venezuelan opposition leader Lopez surrenders

READ: Will Venezuela abandon Chavismo?

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Malaysia Airlines' Hugh Dunleavy about how the airline industry needs to react to MH17.
updated 12:08 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, and baroque theaters to block-long warehouses, these stores make bookish travelers look stylish.
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 9:44 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
updated 2:57 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT