U.S. Relations With Venezuela
More information about Venezuela is available on the Venezuela Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
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. As then-Secretary Tillerson said, the United States seeks to see Venezuela “return to its constitution, return to free, open, and democratic elections, and allow the people of Venezuela a voice in their government.”
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.
Since 2005, the President has determined annually that Venezuela has “failed demonstrably” to adhere to its obligations under international counter-narcotics agreements and to take certain counter-narcotics measures. The President has waived these restrictions with respect to programs that are vital to the national interests of the United States, such as human rights and civil society programs.
Pursuant to section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act, the Department of State since 2006 has annually determined that Venezuela was “not cooperating fully” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Under this provision, defense articles and services may not be sold or licensed for export to Venezuela during the relevant fiscal year.
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.
Hyperinflation, state intervention in the economy including expropriations, macroeconomic distortions, physical insecurity, corruption, and a volatile regulatory framework make Venezuela an extremely challenging climate for U.S. and multinational companies. A complex foreign exchange regime and the unavailability of dollars have prevented firms from repatriating their earnings out of Venezuela and importing industrial inputs and finished goods into Venezuela. Lack of access to dollars, price controls, and rigid labor regulations have compelled many U.S. and multinational firms to reduce or shut down their Venezuelan operations.
Since 2017, the United States has sanctioned more than 40 Venezuelan individuals, including President Maduro, associated with repression, corruption, and undermining democracy under Executive Order 13692 “Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela.” Since 2017, the Department of Treasury has designated two individuals for involvement in narcotrafficking under the Kingpin Act, including the Vice President of Venezuela.
On August 25, 2017, the United States announced financial sector sanctions that prohibit U.S. persons from dealings in new debt and equity of the Government of Venezuela and its state oil company. These sanctions also prohibit dealings in certain existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector, as well as dividend payments to the Government of Venezuela. They do allow U.S. persons to provide food, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people. The sanctions deny the Maduro regime a critical source of financing with which it maintains its rule, restrict the Venezuelan government from using the U.S. system to restructure existing debts, and protect the U.S. financial system from complicity in Venezuela’s corruption and in the impoverishment of the Venezuelan people.
Venezuela's Membership in International Organizations
Venezuela and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Monetary Fund, Interpol, United Nations Human Rights Council, World Bank, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization. On April 26, 2017, Venezuela announced it would withdraw from the Organization of American States, a process that requires two years.
Venezuela is a founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and PetroCaribe. Venezuela is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the G-15, the G-24, and the G-77. On August 5, 2017 Venezuela was indefinitely suspended from Southern Common Market (Mercosur).
Principal U.S. embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.
Venezuela maintains an embassy in the United States at 1099 30th St. NW, Washington, DC 20007; tel. (202) 342-2214.
More information about Venezuela is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
Department of State Venezuela Country Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Venezuela Page
USAID Venezuela Page
History of U.S. Relations With Venezuela
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Library of Congress Country Studies
U.S. Energy Information Administration
Country Reports on Terrorism