"Venezuela is Latin America's biggest exporter of crude oil and has the world's largest petroleum reserves." - Brian Ellsworth and Andrew Cawthorne, Venezuela death toll rises to 13 as protests flare Reuters 02/24/2014
"Venezuela claims the world’s largest proven reserves of petroleum, an estimated 298 billion barrels of oil." - Michael Klare, The Desperate Plight of Petro-States TomDispatch 05/26/2016
Yesterday's physical attack on opposition delegates in the Venezuelan Congress (National Assembly) while it was in session occasioned a formal statement from the US State Department:
That part about the commitments the Venezuela government supposedly made in Vatican-sponsored talks last fall is puzzling, especially the part about immediate elections. Those talks broke down.An Unacceptable Assault on Venezuela's National Assembly
July 5, 2017
The United States condemns the July 5 attack on members of the Venezuelan National Assembly by armed supporters of the government of President Nicolas Maduro. This violence, perpetrated during the celebration of Venezuela’s independence, is an assault on the democratic principles cherished by the men and women who struggled for Venezuela’s independence 206 years ago today.
We call on the Venezuelan government to immediately provide for the protection of the National Assembly, ensure those injured in today’s attack are able to receive medical attention, and bring the attackers to justice. We urge all sides in Venezuela to refrain from violence.
The United States deplores the Venezuelan government's increasing authoritarianism, and the convocation of a National Constituent Assembly designed to undermine Venezuela’s democratic institutions, including the National Assembly. We join nations across the hemisphere and call upon the government of Venezuela to live up to commitments it made in the Vatican-facilitated dialogue process last fall to hold free, fair, and credible elections immediately, respect the constitution and the National Assembly, provide for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, and tend to the humanitarian needs of the Venezuelan people.
Mark Sullivan wrote about those Vatican-sponsored talks in a paper for the congressional Research Service, Venezuela: Issues for Congress, 2013-2016 01/23/2017:
For much of 2016, opposition efforts were focused on recalling President Maduro through a national referendum, but the government slowed down the referendum process and suspended it indefinitely in October. After an appeal by Pope Francis, the government and most of the opposition (with the exception of Leopoldo López’s Popular Will party) agreed to talks mediated by the Vatican along with the former presidents of the Dominican Republic, Spain, and Panama and the head of the Union of South American Nations. The two sides issued a declaration in November expressing firm commitment to a peaceful, respectful, and constructive coexistence. They also issued a statement that included an agreement to improve the supply of food and medicine and to resolve the situation of the three National Assembly representatives. Some opposition activists strongly criticized the dialogue as a way for the government to avoid taking any real actions, such as releasing all political prisoners. The next round of talks was scheduled for December but was suspended until January 2017, and many observers are skeptical that the dialogue will resume. [my emphasis]