"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. 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, defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles by a margin of just 1.49%, with the opposition alleging significant irregularities. Venezuela's December 2013 municipal elections demonstrated mixed results for the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). In 2014, the Maduro government is facing significant challenges, including deteriorating economic conditions (with high inflation and shortages of consumer goods) and high rates of crime and violence. Most significantly, in February, student-led street protests erupted into violence with protestors attacked by Venezuelan security forces and militant pro-government civilian groups. Since then, at least 42 people have been killed on both sides of the conflict; more than 800 have been injured; and more than 3,000 have been arrested (while most have been released, reportedly some 170 are still being held). A major opposition figure, Leopoldo López, was arrested and imprisoned along with two opposition mayors. Diplomatic efforts to deal with the crisis at the Organization of American States were frustrated in March. The Union of South America Nations (UNASUR) was successful in getting the government and a segment of the opposition to begin talks in April, but the talks broke down in May because of a lack of progress."
CRS Report for Congress, R43239