The United States established diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 1835. While the U.S.-Venezuelan bilateral relationship has been strained in recent years, the United States maintains a strong and respectful relationship with the people of Venezuela. Venezuela’s recent presidents, the late Hugo Chavez (1999-2013) and Nicolas Maduro (2013-present), have defined themselves in part through their opposition to the United States, regularly criticizing the U.S. government, its policies, and its relations with Latin America. President Maduro’s policies are characterized by authoritarianism, intolerance for dissent, and irresponsible state intervention in the economy that has stoked hyperinflation and led to negative economic growth in a country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves. The United States and Venezuela maintain diplomatic relations, with embassies each headed by a chargé d’affaires.
U.S. Assistance to Venezuela
U.S. assistance to Venezuela supports the defense of human rights, the promotion of civil society, and the strengthening of democratic institutions. Venezuela is currently subject to certain restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance. The United States stands ready to provide emergency food assistance, including food and nutrition commodities or assistance, to affected populations in Venezuela, if the Government of Venezuela would accept international humanitarian assistance.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The United States is Venezuela's largest trading partner. Bilateral trade in goods between both countries reached $16.1 billion in 2016, the last year of available data. U.S. goods exports to Venezuela totaled $5.3 billion in 2016, down 36 percent from 2015. U.S. imports from Venezuela totaled $ 10.9 billion, down 30 percent from 2015. U.S. exports to Venezuela include petroleum and refined petroleum products, machinery, organic chemicals, agricultural products, autos and auto parts. Crude oil dominates U.S. imports from Venezuela, which is one of the top five suppliers of foreign oil to the United States. U.S. foreign direct investment in Venezuela is concentrated largely in the petroleum sector.