STANDING on the brink of collapse, Venezuela is in the grip of a hyperinflation economic catastrophe – and is becoming one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
Here is what you need to know about the hard-left president how the crisis in the South American country has developed.
AP:Associated Press Venezuela’s economy has shrunk by 50 per cent since dictator Nicolas Maduro took power in 2013
Who is Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro?
Nicolas Maduro took power as president in 2013.
He was born on November 23, 1962.
He is married to Cilia Flores, a lawyer and politician who replaced Maduro as President of the National Assembly in August 2006, when he resigned to become Minister of Foreign Affairs under President Hugo Chavez.
He has one son from a previous marriage and three step-children from his wife’s first marriage.
The 56-year-old is a former bus driver and trade union leader.
Why is there such criticism of his regime?
Maduro has seen his country plunge into disarray and the United States has imposed sanctions, labelling him a “dictator”.
His government’s answer to the crisis, which has escalated since his mentor’s death, has been simply to print more money.
Venezuela now prints four times more cash than it collects from sales and all taxes, including VAT and income tax.
Nationalised farms have seen yields fall every year, with almost two thirds of Venezuelans reporting weight loss as a result of food shortages.
Maduro came under fire earlier in September 2018 for dining out on expensive steak at Salt Bae’s luxury restaurant in Turkey.
Red meat is especially rare in Venezuela, where millions go hungry every day and 64 per cent of the people have reported losing an average of 11kg (24lbs) because there’s not enough to eat.
Maduro’s response to open revolt on the streets has been to shut opposition parties out of government.
However his crackdown on protests in 2017 failed to stop daily unrest on the streets of Caracas resulting in 120 deaths in just four months.
The controversial president was reelected in May 2018 in an election that Boris Johnson described as “obviously rigged”.
Today,US sanctions have been deemed illegal and Russia will take all necessary steps to support the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Why have tensions flared up?
On January 23 US President Donald Trump recognised Juan Guaidó as the new head of state after he declared it himself.
Seven South American countries and Canada backed Trump’s recognition.
Guaidó, head of the National Assembly, claimed that articles within Venezuela’s constitution allow him to assume power because he believes Maduro’s election and presidency is invalid.
He has promised to hold free elections and lead a transitional government.
But in response, President Maduro accused the US of trying to stage a coup.
Giving US diplomats 72 hours to leave the country, in a televised address he said: “We’ve had enough interventionism, here we have dignity, damn it!”
The European Union and UK have not fully recognised Guaidó, but state they support free and fair elections.
Russia has said Maduro is the head of the state.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We consider the attempt to usurp sovereign authority in Venezuela to contradict and violate the basis and principles of international law.
“Maduro is the legitimate head of state.”
What was the drone assassination attempt?
During a live event in August 2018, the head of state dodged a “drone assassination attempt”.
The president was mid-speech at a military parade in Caracas when two blasts rang out above his podium, startling the head of state and his wife Cilia Flores.
Both were suddenly swamped with security personnel who shielded them with bulletproof padding.
Hundreds of soldiers broke ranks and sprinted for cover as explosions went off last night. Seven soldiers were hurt.
Maduro claims he saw a “flying device” explode before his eyes before instantly blaming “ultra-right” opponents.
But questions have been raised about whether the incident was faked after Maduro quickly blamed political opponents and media footage of the event suddenly cut out.
The price of a chicken in Venezuela is 15 million bolivar
What’s the latest?
Maduro has blocked aid being delivered to the nation. Following this, Trump imposed sanctions on four Venezuelan state governors allied with the government of embattled President Nicolas Maduro, blocking any assets they control in the United States.
Over February 23 weekend, security forces on the borders with Colombia and Brazil fired tear gas and buckshot on activists waving Venezuelan flags while escorting trucks with emergency medical and food kits.
Four people have been reported killed and at least 300 wounded, although only a few were hospitalised.
Just 20 years ago, Venezuela — which has the world’s largest crude oil reserves — was one of the richest countries on Earth.
Revolutionary socialist Hugo Chavez swept to power in 1998, promising to share out the nation’s wealth.
Slum dwellers were housed in new tower block apartments, deliberately sited in well-to-do areas, and Chavez gave away £640billion in welfare handouts, increasing the national debt five-fold.
But the collapse of oil prices has now triggered a total economic meltdown.
And now, Venezuela is in the grip of a hyperinflation economic catastrophe after 19 years of successive socialist governments failed to control the cost of basic goods, which are now doubling in price on average every 26 days.
The Sun Online reported how many people can’t afford basic items like food and medicine, with child malnutrition at record levels in the country.
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Bread currently costs over two million bolivar
You’ll need 11 million bolivar to take home a litre of milk
Controversial Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro enjoys a luxury steak dinner served personally by celebrity chef Salt Bae
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