In 2014, a series of protests, political demonstrations, and civil insurrection began in Venezuela due to the country's high levels of urban violence, inflation, and chronic shortages of basic goods and services. Explanations for these worsening conditions vary with analysis blaming strict price controls and long-term, widespread political corruption resulting in the under-funding of basic government services.
While protests occurred in January, after the murder of actress and former Miss Venezuela Mónica Spear, the 2014 protests began in earnest that February following the attempted rape of a student on a university campus in San Cristóbal. Subsequent arrests and killings of student protesters spurred their expansion to neighboring cities and the involvement of opposition leaders.
The year's early months were characterized by large demonstrations and violent clashes between protesters and government forces that resulted in nearly 4,000 arrests and 43 deaths, including both supporters and opponents of the government. Toward the end of 2014, and into 2015, continued shortages and low oil prices caused renewed protesting.
By 2016, protests occurred following the controversy surrounding the 2015 Venezuelan parliamentary elections as well as the incidents surrounding the 2016 recall referendum. On 1 September 2016, the largest demonstration of the protests occurred, with over 1 million Venezuelans, or over 3% of the entire nation's population, gathered to demand a recall election against President Maduro, with the event being described as the "largest demonstration in the history of Venezuela". Following the suspension of the recall referendum by the government-leaning National Electoral Council (CNE) on 21 October 2016, the opposition organized another protest which was held on 26 October 2016, with over 1.2 million Venezuelans participating. After some of the largest protests occurred in a late-2016, Vatican-mediated dialogue between the opposition and government was attempted and ultimately failed in January 2017. Concentration on protests subsided in the first months of 2017 until the 2017 Venezuelan constitutional crisis occurred when the pro-government Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Venezuela attempted to assume the powers of the opposition-led National Assembly and removed their immunity, though the move was reversed days later, demonstrations grew "into the most combative since a wave of unrest in 2014". During the 2017 protests, the Mother of all Protests involved from 2.5 million to 6 million protesters. The 2019 protests began in early January after the National Assembly declared the May 2018 presidential elections invalid and declared Juan Guaidó acting president, resulting in a presidential crisis.
The majority of protests have been peaceful, consisting of demonstrations, sit-ins, and hunger strikes, though small groups of protesters have been responsible for attacks on public property, such as government buildings and public transportation. Erecting improvised street barricades, dubbed guarimbas, were a controversial form of protest in 2014. Though initially protests were mainly performed by the middle and upper classes, lower class Venezuelans quickly became involved as the situation in Venezuela deteriorated.
Nicolas Maduro's government characterized the protests as an undemocratic coup d'etat attempt orchestrated by "fascist" opposition leaders and the United States; blaming capitalism and speculation for causing high inflation rates and goods scarcities as part of an "economic war" being waged on his government. Although Maduro, a former trade union leader, says he supports peaceful protesting, the Venezuelan government has been widely condemned for its handling of the protests. Venezuelan authorities have reportedly gone beyond the use of rubber pellets and tear gas to instances of live ammunition use and torture of arrested protesters, according to organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, while the United Nations has accused the Venezuelan government of politically-motivated arrests, most notably former Chacao mayor and leader of Popular Will, Leopoldo Lopez, who has used the controversial charges of murder and inciting violence against him to protest the government's "criminalization of dissent." Other controversies reported during the protests include media censorship and violence by pro-government militant groups known as colectivos.
On 27 September 2018, the United States government declared new sanctions on individuals in Venezuelan government. They included Maduro's wife Cilia Flores, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, Minister of Communications Jorge Rodriguez and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino. On 27 September 2018, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution for the first time on human rights abuses in Venezuela. 11 Latin American countries proposed the resolution including Mexico, Canada and Argentina.