TIMELINE

How Venezuela's political crisis developed

Venezuela plunged deeper into political turmoil this week when Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition-run congress, declared himself interim president, the boldest challenge to socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's rule in years.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido's move to assume the presidency is biggest challenge to Maduro in years

Supporters cheer after Juan Guaido, head of Venezuela's opposition-run congress, swore himself in as interim president of the South American country until new elections can be called, at a rally demanding the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on Wednesday. (Boris Vergara/Associated Press)

Venezuela plunged deeper into political turmoil this week when Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition-run congress, declared himself interim president, the boldest challenge to socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's rule in years.

On Wednesday, Guaido invoked an article in Venezuela's constitution that allows the head of the National Assembly to assume power for 30 days if the presidency is vacant — which Guaido and his supporters believe is the case, arguing that Maduro's presidency is invalid because he stole the election.  

Here's how Venezuela's political crisis has evolved since the death of socialist leader Hugo Chavez, against a backdrop of hyperinflationary economic collapse in the OPEC nation.

March 2013: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who won over the country's poor with so-called 21st-century socialism during his 14-year rule, dies from cancer at the age of 58. His preferred successor, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, takes office.

April 2013: In presidential elections for a six-year term, Maduro narrowly defeats opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who had lost to Chavez by a wider margin the year before. Capriles and allies say the vote was marred by fraud and call on supporters to take to the streets.

February 2014: Venezuelan security forces arrest well-known opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on charges of fomenting unrest, after a wave of protests known as "The Exit," seeking to oust Maduro.

December 2015: The opposition Democratic Unity coalition wins control of Venezuela's legislative body, the National Assembly, for the first time in 16 years, riding a wave of popular discontent with a prolonged recession and rising inflation after oil prices collapsed.

March 2016: Venezuela's Supreme Court, which has consistently sided with the ruling Socialist Party, announces it is taking over the functions of the National Assembly. The court quickly walks back the decision amid international outcry. But the event sparks months of anti-government protests that ultimately leave more than 100 dead.

July 2017: Venezuela calls a referendum, boycotted by the opposition, to approve the creation of an all-powerful legislative body called the Constituent Assembly. It is nominally tasked with rewriting the constitution but quickly takes over crucial legislative functions, leading to accusations that Maduro is undermining democracy.

Maduro, who continued to carry out presidential duties, gestures to military leaders to keep their eyes open, at the end of a news conference inside the presidential palace in Caracas on Thursday. (Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press)

February 2018: Mediation talks between the government and the opposition collapse amid disagreement over the timing of the next presidential election. The government announces the vote will be held in the first half of the year, and the main opposition parties pledge to boycott.

May 2018: Maduro cruises to re-election over a lesser-known opposition candidate amid low turnout and allegations of vote-buying by the government. The domestic opposition, the U.S. government and the governments of the Lima Group, which consists of Canada and some dozen Latin American countries, say they do not recognize the results.

January 2019: Maduro goes ahead with his inauguration for a second six-year term, ignoring the advice of several Latin American governments. Juan Guaido, a virtually unknown opposition lawmaker who assumed leadership of the largely toothless National Assembly days earlier, calls Maduro a "usurper."

January 2019: Guaido swears himself in as interim president at the opposition's largest rally since 2017. He is almost instantly recognized as the country's legitimate president by Canada, the United States and many of Venezuela's neighbours.

Juan Guaido, president of Venezuela's National Assembly, holds a copy of the Venezuelan constitution on Wednesday, when he invoked a constitutional article that allows him to assume power for 30 days if the presidency is vacant. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)