Religious freedom prevails by law and it is usually respected in practice as well. Traditionally, Catholicism is the dominant religion, but the percentage of Protestants is increasing rapidly.
The trend with a reduced proportion of Catholics in the population is the same as in the rest of Latin America. In a 2011 survey, 71 percent of those polled identified themselves as Catholics, despite the fact that significantly more people were baptized in the Catholic Church. Seventeen percent indicated that they belonged to some Protestant community, while almost one in ten residents did not indicate any religion at all.
There are also over 100,000 Muslims, originating mainly in Lebanon and Syria. The Jewish population numbered over 20,000 in the 1990s but has halved since then. Much of the emigration is behind increased anti-Semitism, which is linked to the government’s sharp criticism of Israel and its cooperation with Iran.
Several peoples religions also exist. The Maria Lionza cult has elements of Native American, African and Catholic faith. The goddess Maria Lionza was born according to legend at the beginning of the 16th century and was the daughter of an Indian chief. She is considered to rule over the wild animals.
Santería, an Afro-Cuban religion (see Cuba-Religion), has also won many followers in recent years. One reason is that many Cuban doctors have come to work in Venezuela.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Venezuela, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
Soldiers convicted of coup plans
The Supreme Court sentenced nine militants to prison for up to eight years for planning a riot in order to oust President Maduro in 2014. Among those convicted are a general and a colonel who receive five years each. Maduro relies on military support and has been reported to hit hard on militants who are beginning to think in other trajectories. According to the AFP news agency quoting the charity Foro Penal, there are 278 prisoners of conscience in Venezuela, 80 of whom are military.
Confrontation with Guyana
Guyana accuses Venezuela of re-firing on Guyanese water and forcing a ship from Exxon company looking for oil. Venezuela claims the vessel was in Venezuelan waters. The incident is the last in a series of incidents linked to an old border dispute between the countries (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
Opposition paper is closed down
13th of December
El Nacional, the country’s last major opposition paper newspaper, switches to publishing only on the internet due to paper shortages. El Nacional’s CEO says the magazine has also suffered from a number of regime-supported legal processes, tax claims and advertising restrictions.
Ex-minister dies in prison
Nelson Martínez, former oil minister and former oil company PDVSA’s former chief, dies in prison where he has been detained for over a year, suspected of corruption (see November 2017).
Few votes in municipal elections
When municipal elections are held, almost three out of four voters choose to stay at home. The turnout is only 27 percent. In the 156 municipal councils at stake, the ruling Socialist Party wins a majority in 142. According to analysts, low participation was expected as Venezuelans have low confidence that elections and other political processes will go right, and because the main opposition parties are disqualified..
The minimum wage is increased by 150 percent
President Nicolás Maduro raises the minimum wage by 150 percent, in the sixth adjustment during the year (see also August 2018). This means that the minimum wage now reaches about $ 50 a month, with the official exchange rate. Inflation is now estimated at around 1.35 million percent during the year, according to the IMF.
“Incoming government is illegitimate”
The opposition-controlled National Assembly states that Nicolás Maduro’s upcoming presidential term, which formally begins in January 2019, is in violation of the Constitution. The opposition alliance, which calls itself the Broad Front Free Venezuela (FAVL), will not recognize President Maduro’s new government as legitimate – as does the EU, US, Canada and a majority of Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru.
The United States extends sanctions
The United States is introducing new “tough” sanctions against, among other things, the gold sector, which is said to be used to finance the Venezuelan government through “fraudulent” transactions. The security adviser points out Venezuela as one of three countries in a “tyranny troika”, together with Cuba and Nicaragua. In September, the sanctions against several people in President Maduro’s immediate circle were also tightened, including his wife Cilia Flores de Maduro and Vice President Delcy Rodríguez.
Diplomatic dispute with Ecuador
The government orders Ecuador’s top diplomat in Caracas to leave the country. Just before that, Venezuela’s ambassador to Quito was expelled in protest of a Venezuelan minister calling Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno a “liar.” The reason is that Moreno said that 6,000 Venezuelans come to Ecuador daily, because of the crisis in their home country.
UN plea to receive humanitarian aid
The UN Human Rights Council appeals to the Venezuelan government to receive humanitarian aid to help alleviate the screaming shortage of food and medicine. This is the first time that the UN Council has adopted a resolution on Venezuela. The proposal, which has been tabled by Latin American countries and Canada, is supported by 23 of the Council’s 47 members while 17 abstentions. China, Cuba and Venezuela vote against the resolution.
The US talks about military intervention
US President Donald Trump talks about the Venezuelan government “being able to overthrow” the military but does not want to say anything about the US military in the matter. Trump is speaking at a meeting with Colombian President Iván Duque, when both are in New York to speak at the UN General Assembly. According to recent New York Times reports, representatives of the United States government have met with Venezuelan military officers on three occasions to discuss plans to overthrow Maduro – but plans have come to an end.
Prosecution in Andorra for billion dollars
A Andorra judge is suing 29 people for corruption in which $ 2.3 billion should have been paid in bribes for lucrative contracts with the state-owned Venezuelan oil company PDVSA, between 2007 and 2012. Half of the suspects are Venezuelans, including two former Deputy Energy Ministers under Hugo Chávez and two former oil ministers. The money must have been washed and hidden in an Andorran bank, and then placed in other tax havens. The Andorran bank has been forced to close after allegations of money laundering.
Government criticism against the UN
The government accuses the UN of trying to organize an “international intervention” by exaggerating the refugee crisis in the country. According to Vice President Delcry Rodríguez, it is a “normal migration flow”, despite the UN reporting that 1.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015. In Ecuador, a crisis meeting is taking place in which 13 Latin American countries participate to discuss the refugee crisis.
Economic reform plan is presented
20th of August
President Maduro presents an economic plan that raises the minimum wage by 3,400 percent. The currency is devalued by 96 percent, five zeros are deleted and it is linked to crypto currency petro. The new currency is called bolívar soberano (VES) and replaces bolívar fuerte (VEF) introduced in 2008. At the same time, VAT is increased and fuel subsidies are withdrawn – the price of fuel is the lowest in the world.
Attempted attempt against Maduro
President Maduro is suspected of an attempted assault in connection with a speech at a military parade in Caracas. An explosion occurs and Maduro interrupts his speech and is brought to safety. Seven soldiers are reported injured and six people are subsequently arrested for attempted murder. Maduro accuses the right-wing opposition and Colombia’s outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos of being behind the attack. A group calling themselves soldiers in t-shirts – and made up primarily of young government opponents – says in a statement to be behind the attempted assault that should have been carried out with two drones charged with explosive charges. However, some firefighters on the scene stated that there was a gas tank that exploded in an apartment nearby.
Remodeling at the top
The Socialist Party’s second trustee, Diosdado Cabello, is appointed new President of the Constitutional Assembly, after Delcy Rodríguez having become Vice President five days earlier. The representative as Vice President, Tareck El Asisami, has been given responsibility for the newly established Ministry of Industries and National Production. Cabello has previously been President of the National Assembly.
More prisoners released
A group of 43 prisoners accused of “political violence” is set free. A total of 124 prisoners have now been released in June. Among them is an American who has been accused of espionage and held captive for almost two years, but who is now allowed to return to the United States. According to the Foro Penal group, there are still around 300 political prisoners in Venezuela. Many are held in detention without trial and the exact figure varies – b ara during the month of May will be 148 people have been arrested.
OAS may exclude Venezuela
The OAS adopts a resolution tabled by the United States in which the presidential election is rejected and a process initiated as to exclude Venezuela. The resolution is adopted by 19 votes while 11 countries abstain. Four votes against: Venezuela itself and Bolivia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica. In order for the exclusion to become a fact, an extraordinary meeting and a vote by a two-thirds majority are required. Venezuela has already announced plans to leave the organization (see April 2017).
Party top wins advocacy goals
One of the ruling Socialist Party’s leading figures, former President Diosdado Cabello, is awarded damages of the equivalent of US $ 12,000 from El Nacional magazine. Cabello sued the newspaper since it released information in foreign media in 2015 that it has links to drug trafficking. Attempts have also been made to sue the ABC newspaper in Spain and the Wall Street Journal in the US, without success. El Nacional writes that both the damages and previous attacks on the newspaper pose a threat to media freedom.
Political prisoners are released
A total of 79 opposition politicians and activists are released over the course of two days. These are people who participated in the protests in 2014 and 2017. The released have been banned from using social media and are not allowed to leave the country.
US diplomat expelled
President Maduro announces that Chargé d’affaires Todd Robinson, the United States’ highest diplomat in Venezuela, must leave the country. The US embassy is part of a “military, economic and political conspiracy,” Maduro says. Shortly thereafter, the US contracted to expel two Venezuelan diplomats.
International reactions to the election
The 14 countries of the Lima group recall their ambassadors from Caracas in protest of the presidential election. The United States is introducing new sanctions to prevent government officials from making fun of themselves by selling oil assets. Many Western and Latin American states had already made it clear before the election that they would not recognize the result. However, President Maduro receives support from, among others, Russia, China, Cuba and El Salvador.
Maduro is declared victorious in the presidential election
According to the election authority, President Nicolás Maduro wins by about 68 percent of the vote, against 21 percent for the second Henri Falcón. The turnout is stated to be 46 percent. But Falcón refuses to approve the result, saying that the regime cheated and pushed voters through the food ration cards issued by the authorities. A few days after the election, Maduro swears the presidential order for the second time, although the formal installation will only take place in January 2019 according to the schedule that was in place before the presidential elections were announced (see also January 23, February 21 and March 1).
US sanctions against Cabello
The United States introduces new sanctions against Diosdado Cabello as well as his wife, brother and co-worker who are considered to be front figures for Cabello himself. The former Speaker of the National Assembly is accused, among other things, of being involved in drug smuggling, money laundering and embezzlement of state funds. The EU and Switzerland have already previously imposed sanctions on Cabello.
Invitation to postpone the election
The regional Lime Group calls “for the last time” President Maduro to postpone the elections on May 20. The statement is made by Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray after a meeting in the Mexican capital. The Lime Group was formed in 2017 and consists of countries in South and North America that seek to help resolve the crisis in Venezuela. They have stated that there are no conditions for a democratic election and increasingly fear that Venezuela’s collapse will lead to instability throughout the region.
US extends sanctions on Venezuela
The US faces sanctions on 16 companies in Venezuela and four in Panama, and calls on the government to postpone the presidential election scheduled for May 20. Sanctions are also targeted at three Venezuelan citizens, one of whom is a former intelligence chief and has been charged in the United States for drug smuggling.
Record high inflation
According to a calculation made by the opposition-controlled National Assembly, inflation in the past year (April 2017 to April 2018) amounted to 13,779 percent – without competition the highest level in the world. This is in line with the IMF ‘s estimates of what inflation will be in 2018. But the rate of increase in prices has now accelerated so that inflation for the whole year can be up to 100,000 percent.
The minimum wage is raised again
President Maduro announces yet another increase in the minimum wage, the third this year. After the increase, which almost doubles, the monthly salary, including food vouchers, will be 2.55 million bolivars – which is equivalent to $ 3.20 in the black market. Around 13 million Venezuelans are expected to earn the minimum wage.
MPs want to prosecute Maduro
The National Assembly, controlled by the opposition, is voting to put President Maduro in the face of national law as a result of the huge corruption scandal surrounding Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. The vote is symbolic since the National Assembly is completely unaffected since the Constitutional Assembly was established (see August 2017). Journalists are shut out from the vote by military police. Former Prosecutor Luisa Ortega has said that she has evidence of involvement in the Odebrech scandal concerning Maduro and close associates to him. In March, a Brazilian newspaper wrote that Maduro had given Odebrecht a contract for nearly $ 4 billion in exchange for donations to his 2013 election campaign.
Prison fire requires many lives
The unfortunate conditions in the country’s overcrowded prisons come into focus when a fire in connection with an escape attempt leads to the death of 68 people. The fire is believed to have erupted when inmates set fire to mattresses and stole a security guard’s handgun, in an attempt to get out of jail. The UN requires the authorities to investigate the incident.
New devaluation of the currency
President Maduro announces that three zeros should be deleted from the currency, bolívar. New banknotes and coins will be put into service from June. The banknote that today has the highest denomination – 100,000 – is barely enough for a cup of coffee. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that inflation in Venezuela during the year will amount to 13,000 percent. It will be the second time in ten years that the country will exchange currency: Maduro’s representative Hugo Chávez introduced bolívar fuerte in 2008.
the 13th of March
Former Interior Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres is arrested, suspected of planning to divide the defense forces and “commit crimes against the government”. President Maduro accuses Rodríguez Torres, who was intelligence chief under Hugo Chávez and who participated in the coup attempt in 1992 (see Modern History), for having links on right-wing plans to overthrow the president.
The presidential election is postponed
The CNE Election Authority announces that the election will be held on May 20, a month later than previously stated. The message comes after a settlement between the government and some smaller opposition parties. The large opposition alliance MUD does not participate in the settlement.
The opposition decides to boycott the election
The opposition alliance MUD decides not to take part in the presidential election in April unless there is a guarantee that it will go right. Participation in an undemocratic election would give it legitimacy, it says. P resident Nicolás Maduro says the election should be held and proposes that it be expanded to a “mega election”. It would mean elections to the Parliament as well as in the states and at the municipal level, to create “democratic renewal”.
New digital currency is introduced
The government is introducing a digital crypto currency, petro, to be backed by the country’s oil reserves. The purpose is to circumvent the economic sanctions imposed by the United States. Petron is supposed to strengthen the economy, which is hard pressed after several years of hyperinflation and devaluation. A total of 100 million petro will be sold, initially at a price of $ 60 apiece, which is equivalent to a barrel of oil. Petron should then be accepted as a means of payment to the state.
Crimes against humanity are being investigated
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is launching a preparatory inquiry into crimes against humanity during the political crisis, since April 2017. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda specifically points to information that the security forces have used violence against protesters and that thousands of people have been arrested.
Choice date is spiked
The presidential election will be held on April 22, the election authority announces after the government and opposition agreed on the date during the negotiations in the Dominican Republic. But the talks then collapse, as the government refuses to allow two opposition leaders to stand. The opposition also calls for transparency in the electoral process and for political prisoners to be released.
The Spanish ambassador is expelled
The government expels Spain’s ambassador to Caracas and accuses him of interfering with the country’s internal affairs. President Maduro has accused Spain of lagging behind the new EU sanctions against Venezuela. The next day Venezuela’s Madrid ambassador from Spain is expelled.
Presidential election by April
The Constitutional Assembly announces that the presidential election will be held before the end of April. The message comes unexpectedly, elections are usually held in December in Venezuela. Now the opposition is finding it difficult to shake up a candidate – not least as the main opposition leaders have either been imprisoned, suspended from political office or taken on national leave. President Maduro announces at a mass meeting that he is running for re-election. The party’s second trustee, Diosdado Cabello, says the decision to postpone the election is a result of the new sanctions of the US and the EU. A few days later beats The Supreme Court ruled that the opposition alliance MUD must not stand for election because parties that are not registered are part of it. Of the three parties that boycotted the municipal elections and have therefore been obliged to re-register, two (PJ and AD) have said they are prepared to do so, while the third (VP) refuses (see December 10, 2017).
EU sanctions against individuals
The EU imposes sanctions on seven high-ranking representatives of the state; they get assets frozen and entry bans. This is the first time the EU is freezing assets for individuals in Venezuela, previous sanctions have mainly affected arms purchases and the like (see November 2017). The motivation is a lack of respect for citizens’ rights and the increasingly difficult situation in the country. Among the seven are Interior Minister Néstor Reverol, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno, Intelligence Chief Gustavo González López and Diosdado Cabello, the former Speaker who is the second Speaker of the PSUV Government Party.
The opposition interrupts a new dialogue
The opposition alliance MUD announces to cancel the crisis talks with the government launched a week earlier, in the Dominican Republic. The round of talks was the third to try to resolve the political crisis that paralyzed the country ahead of this year’s presidential election. The faithful constitutional assembly has ordered the leading opposition parties to re-register after the boycott of the municipal elections (see December 2017). The opposition, in turn, has threatened to resume street protests.
US sanctions against generals
The US extends its sanctions list with four retired generals accused of involvement in corruption and harsh protests against protesters. Any assets they have in the US are frozen and US companies and citizens are prohibited from doing business with them.
40 percent increase in the minimum wage
President Maduro promises in his New Year’s figure that the minimum wage will be increased by 40 percent. In doing so, workers should be protected from the economic war that he claims the outside world is waging against Venezuela. According to the opposition-controlled National Assembly, inflation over the past year amounts to 1,400 percent.