"While historically the United States has had close relations with Venezuela, a major oil supplier, friction in bilateral relations rose over the past decade under the leftist populist government of President Hugo Chávez, who died in March 2013 after battling cancer for almost two years. First elected in 1998, Chávez had won reelection to another six-year term in October 2012, capturing about 55% of the vote compared to 44% for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. After Chávez's death, Venezuela held presidential elections in April 2013 in which acting President Nicolás Maduro, who had been serving as Chávez's vice president, received 50.61% of the vote, compared to 49.12% for Capriles (a margin of 1.49%). In both of those presidential elections, the incumbent candidate benefited from the use of state resources and media for his campaign. The opposition filed challenges to the 2013 election results that were ultimately rejected by Venezuela's Supreme Court. Venezuela's upcoming municipal elections, scheduled for December 8. 2013, will be an important test of strength for the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). The Maduro government faces significant challenges, including deteriorating economic conditions and high rates of crime and violence. […] This report, which will be updated periodically, analyzes the political and economic situation in Venezuela and the country's foreign policy orientation. It then examines U.S. relations and policy toward Venezuela and several key issues that have been at the forefront of congressional interest: democracy and human rights; energy, including U.S.-Venezuelan energy linkages; drug trafficking; and terrorism issues, including Venezuela's relations with Iran."
CRS Report for Congress, R43239