"Although historically the United States had close relations with Venezuela, a major oil supplier, friction in bilateral relations increased under the leftist, populist government of President Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013 after battling cancer. After Chávez's death, Venezuela held presidential elections in which acting President Nicolás Maduro narrowly defeated Henrique Capriles of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), with the opposition alleging significant irregularities. In 2014, the Maduro government violently suppressed protests and imprisoned a major opposition figure, Leopoldo López, along with others. In December 2015, the MUD initially won a two-thirds supermajority in National Assembly elections, a major defeat for the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). The Maduro government subsequently thwarted the legislature's power by preventing three MUD representatives from taking office (denying the opposition a supermajority) and using the Supreme Court to block bills approved by the legislature. For much of 2016, opposition efforts were focused on recalling President Maduro through a national referendum, but the government slowed down the referendum process and suspended it indefinitely in October. After an appeal by Pope Francis, the government and most of the opposition [...] agreed to talks mediated by the Vatican along with the former presidents of the Dominican Republic, Spain, and Panama and the head of the Union of South American Nations. The two sides issued a declaration in November expressing firm commitment to a peaceful, respectful, and constructive coexistence. [...] The next round of talks was scheduled for December but was suspended until January 2017, and many observers are skeptical that the dialogue will resume."
CRS Report for Congress, R43239
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html