Timeline: Venezuela’s tumultuous history

Founded by Spanish colonialists, Venezuela became independent in 1830 but political unrest continues.

venezuela victory [GALLO/GETTY]
Since the Socialist Party was first elected in 1998, relations between Venezuela and the US have soured [GALLO/GETTY]

1498 – Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, working on behalf of the Spanish monarchy, sails along Venezuela’s eastern coast. 

1499 – Alonso de Ojeda, a Spanish explorer, apparently names the country’s north coast “Venezuela”, or “little Venice” because of its resemblence to the Italian city. 

1521-1522 – Spanish colonisation formally begins on the coast, following a visit by Christopher Columbus in 1499. 

1550 – African slaves are shipped to Venezuela to work on plantations. 

1810 – The king of Spain is overthrown by France’s Napoleon Bonaparte, providing an opening for anti-colonial movements fighting for independence. 

1821 – After a series of bitter battles and short-lived declarations of sovereignty, Gran Colombia – comprising Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador, wins independence from Spain. Simon Bolivar, Venezuela’s national hero, plays a key role in the struggle.  

1830 – Venezuela seperates from Gran Colombia to become an independent country with Caracas as its capital. 

1902 – After failing to repay foreign loans, Venezuela’s ports are blocked by German, British and Italian warships. 

1908-1935 – Venezuela becomes one of the world’s largest oil exporters under the leadership of Juan Vicente Gomez, a dictator.

1958 – Leftist Romulo Betancourt is elected president. He oversees the 1963 elections, the country’s first democratic civilian-to-civilian transfer of power. 

1964 – Raul Leoni becomes president during a period of known as “puntofijismo”, in which elections are limited to competition between two major parties. 

1973 – The Arab oil embargo begins following the “Yom Kippur War” between Arab states and Israel. Oil prices rapidly rise, benefiting Venezuela.  

1983 – A fall in world oil prices leads to government spending cuts. President Jaime Lusinchi signs a pact between business, trade unions and government to deal with the fallout. 

1989 – President Carlos Andres Perez is elected president as Venezuela seeks loans from the International Monetary Fund to prop up its economy. 

1992 – Hugo Chavez, then a military officer, leads a failed coup attempt and is jailed.  

1994 – Chavez is freed from prison and forms a new political party. 

1998 – Hugo Chavez is elected president. 

1999 – Chavez takes office promising to reduce poverty and corruption. 

2000 – Chavez wins presidential elections by a margin above 20 per cent, against challenger Francisco Arias. 

2001 – Venezuela’s government decrees a new law requiring PDVSA, the state petroleum company, to hold a majority stake in all upstream oil projects. 

2002 – A strike by workers at PDVSA creates political chaos. The opposition launches a coup that ousts Chavez for three days, until democracy is restored by Chavez supporters and loyal members of the security forces. 

2002-2003 – Chavez sacks about 20,000 PDVSA employees in light of the coup attempt, and begins using the energy company to finance social programmes. 

2004 – Voters defeat an effort to recall Chavez by a wide margin. 

2006 – During a vote with exceptionally high turnout, Chavez wins re-election to a new six-year term.

2007 – Chavez takes control over four heavy oil products in the Orinoco belt worth billions of dollars. US oil firms Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips leave the country and sue for compensation. 

2007 – Chavez suffers his first electoral defeat in a referendum changing dozens of articles in Venezuela’s constitution, including the abolition of term limits. 

2008 – Oil prices peak above $145 per barrel, and PDVSA is put in charge of a major food importing campaign to deal with supply shortages. 

2010 – Congressional elections lead to significant gains for the opposition, but Chavez’s United Socialist Party still retains a majority. 

2011 – Chavez undergoes cancer surgery in Cuba. 

October, 2012 – Chavez is re-elected president with a convincing mandate despite his illness. 

March 5, 2013 – Chavez died of cancer, a period of national mourning begins. 

April 14, 2013 – Presidential election which will see Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro challenge opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. 

Source: News Agencies

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