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Venezuela was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Ecuador). For most of the first half of the 20th century, Venezuela was ruled by generally benevolent military strongmen, who promoted the oil industry and allowed for some social reforms. Democratically elected governments have held sway since 1959. Current concerns include: an embattled president who may face a recall vote, a divided military, drug-related conflicts along the Colombian border, increasing internal drug consumption, overdependence on the petroleum industry with its price fluctuations, and irresponsible mining operations that are endangering the rain forest and indigenous peoples.
Geography Venezuela
Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana
Geographic coordinates:
8 00 N, 66 00 W
Map references:
South America
total: 912,050 sq km
water: 30,000 sq km
land: 882,050 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly more than twice the size of California
Land boundaries:
total: 4,993 km
border countries: Brazil 2,200 km, Colombia 2,050 km, Guyana 743 km
2,800 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 12 NM
contiguous zone: 15 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands
Andes Mountains and Maracaibo Lowlands in northwest; central plains (llanos); Guiana Highlands in southeast
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Pico Bolivar (La Columna) 5,007 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, other minerals, hydropower, diamonds
Land use:
arable land: 2.99%
other: 96.05% (1998 est.)
permanent crops: 0.96%
Irrigated land:
540 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
subject to floods, rockslides, mudslides; periodic droughts
Environment - current issues:
sewage pollution of Lago de Valencia; oil and urban pollution of Lago de Maracaibo; deforestation; soil degradation; urban and industrial pollution, especially along the Caribbean coast; threat to the rainforest ecosystem from irresponsible mining operations
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
Geography - note:
on major sea and air routes linking North and South America; Angel Falls in the Guiana Highlands is the world's highest waterfall
People Venezuela
25,017,387 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 30.5% (male 3,930,413; female 3,687,744)
15-64 years: 64.5% (male 8,107,382; female 8,034,905)
65 years and over: 5% (male 571,289; female 685,654) (2004 est.)
Median age:
total: 25.2 years
male: 24.6 years
female: 25.8 years (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.44% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
19.34 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
4.9 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Net migration rate:
-0.04 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 22.99 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.57 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
male: 26.18 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 74.06 years
male: 71.02 years
female: 77.32 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.31 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.5% - note: no country specific models provided (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
62,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
2,000 (2001 est.)
noun: Venezuelan(s)
adjective: Venezuelan
Ethnic groups:
Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, indigenous people
nominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%
Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.4%
male: 93.8%
female: 93.1% (2003 est.)
Government Venezuela
Country name:
conventional long form: Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
conventional short form: Venezuela
local short form: Venezuela
local long form: Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela
Government type:
federal republic
Administrative divisions:
23 states (estados, singular - estado), 1 federal district* (distrito federal), and 1 federal dependency** (dependencia federal); Amazonas, Anzoategui, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Bolivar, Carabobo, Cojedes, Delta Amacuro, Dependencias Federales**, Distrito Federal*, Falcon, Guarico, Lara, Merida, Miranda, Monagas, Nueva Esparta, Portuguesa, Sucre, Tachira, Trujillo, Vargas, Yaracuy, Zulia
note: the federal dependency consists of 11 federally controlled island groups with a total of 72 individual islands
5 July 1811 (from Spain)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 5 July (1811)
30 December 1999
Legal system:
based on organic laws as of July 1999; open, adversarial court system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Hugo CHAVEZ Frias (since 3 February 1999); Vice President Jose Vicente RANGEL (since 28 April 2002); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Hugo CHAVEZ Frias (since 3 February 1999); Vice President Jose Vicente RANGEL (since 28 April 2002); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
election results: Hugo CHAVEZ Frias reelected president; percent of vote - 60%
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; election last held 30 July 2000 (next to be held NA 2006)
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (165 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms; three seats reserved for the indigenous peoples of Venezuela)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - pro-government 108 (MVR 92, MAS 6, indigenous 3, other 7), opposition 57 (AD 33, COPEI 6, Justice First 5, other 13)
elections: last held 30 July 2000 (next to be held NA 2005)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Tribunal of Justice or Tribuna Suprema de Justicia (magistrates are elected by the National Assembly for a single 12-year term)
Political parties and leaders:
Democratic Action or AD [Henry RAMOS Allup]; Fifth Republic Movement or MVR [Hugo CHAVEZ]; Homeland for All or PPT [Jose ALBORNOZ]; Justice First [Julio BORGES]; Movement Toward Socialism or MAS [Hector MUJICA]; National Convergence or Convergencia [Juan Jose CALDERA]; Radical Cause or La Causa R [Antonio HERRERA]; Social Christian Party or COPEI [Eduardo FERNANDEZ]; Venezuela Project or PV [Henrique SALAS Romer]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
FEDECAMARAS, a conservative business group; VECINOS groups; Venezuelan Confederation of Workers or CTV (labor organization dominated by the Democratic Action)
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Bernardo ALVAREZ
chancery: 1099 30th Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and San Juan (Puerto Rico)
FAX: [1] (202) 342-6820
telephone: [1] (202) 342-2214
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Charles S. SHAPIRO
embassy: Calle F con Calle Suapure, Urbanizacion Colinas de Valle Arriba, Caracas 1080
mailing address: P. O. Box 62291, Caracas 1060-A; APO AA 34037
telephone: [58] (212) 975-9234, 975-6411
FAX: [58] (212) 975-8991
Flag description:
three equal horizontal bands of yellow (top), blue, and red with the coat of arms on the hoist side of the yellow band and an arc of seven white five-pointed stars centered in the blue band
Economy Venezuela
Economy - overview:
Venezuela continues to be highly dependent on the petroleum sector, which accounts for roughly one-third of GDP, around 80% of export earnings, and more than half of government operating revenues. Despite higher oil prices at the end of 2002 and into 2003, domestic political instability, culminating in a disastrous two-month national oil strike from December 2002 to February 2003, temporarily halted economic activity. The economy remained in depression in 2003, declining by 9.2% after an 8.9% fall in 2002. In late 2003, President CHAVEZ committed himself to $1 billion in new social programs, money the government does not have.
purchasing power parity - $117.9 billion (2003 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
-9.2% (2003 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $4,800 (2003 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5%
industry: 50%
services: 45% (2001)
Population below poverty line:
47% (1998 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 0.8%
highest 10%: 36.5% (1998)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
49.5 (1998)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
31.1% (2003 est.)
Labor force:
9.9 million (1999)
Labor force - by occupation:
services 64%, industry 23%, agriculture 13% (1997 est.)
Unemployment rate:
18% (2003 est.)
revenues: $20.1 billion
expenditures: $23.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $2.6 billion (2002)
petroleum, iron ore mining, construction materials, food processing, textiles, steel, aluminum, motor vehicle assembly
Industrial production growth rate:
-5.4% (2002 est.)
Electricity - production:
87.6 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 31.7%
hydro: 68.3%
other: 0% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
81.47 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
3.08 million bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
505,000 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
Oil - imports:
Oil - proved reserves:
63.95 billion bbl (1 January 2002)
Natural gas - production:
31.71 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
31.71 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
4.202 trillion cu m (1 January 2002)
Agriculture - products:
corn, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, bananas, vegetables, coffee; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish
$25.86 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Exports - commodities:
petroleum, bauxite and aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products, basic manufactures
Exports - partners:
US 45.1%, Netherlands Antilles 12.8%, Dominican Republic 2.8% (2002)
$10.71 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Imports - commodities:
raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials
Imports - partners:
US 32.1%, Colombia 8%, Brazil 6.2%, Germany 4.6%, Mexico 4.4%, Italy 4.1% (2002)
Debt - external:
$20.8 billion (2003)
Economic aid - recipient:
$74 million (2000)
bolivar (VEB)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
bolivares per US dollar - 1,607.79 (2003), 1,160.95 (2002), 723.67 (2001), 679.96 (2000), 605.72 (1999)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Venezuela
Telephones - main lines in use:
2,841,800 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
6,463,600 (2002)
Telephone system:
general assessment: modern and expanding
domestic: domestic satellite system with 3 earth stations; recent substantial improvement in telephone service in rural areas; substantial increase in digitalization of exchanges and trunk lines; installation of a national interurban fiber-optic network capable of digital multimedia services
international: country code - 58; 3 submarine coaxial cables; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 PanAmSat; participating with Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia in the construction of an international fiber-optic network
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 201, FM NA (20 in Caracas), shortwave 11 (1998)
10.75 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
66 (plus 45 repeaters) (1997)
4.1 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
24,138 (2002)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
16 (2000)
Internet users:
1,274,400 (2002)
Transportation Venezuela
total: 682 km
standard gauge: 682 km 1.435-m gauge (2002)
total: 96,155 km
paved: 32,308 km
unpaved: 63,847 km (1999 est.)
7,100 km
note: Rio Orinoco and Lago de Maracaibo accept oceangoing vessels
extra heavy crude 992 km; gas 5,262 km; oil 7,484 km; refined products 1,681 km; unknown (oil/water) 141 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Amuay, Bajo Grande, El Tablazo, La Guaira, La Salina, Maracaibo, Matanzas, Palua, Puerto Cabello, Puerto la Cruz, Puerto Ordaz, Puerto Sucre, Punta Cardon
Merchant marine:
total: 48 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 740,919 GRT/1,191,483 DWT
registered in other countries: 4 (2003 est.)
foreign-owned: Belgium 1, Denmark 2, Greece 2, Spain 1, United States 2
by type: bulk 6, cargo 7, container 2, liquefied gas 5, multi-functional large load carrier 1, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 16, roll on/roll off 8, short-sea/passenger 1
368 (2003 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 128
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 11
1,524 to 2,437 m: 31
914 to 1,523 m: 63
under 914 m: 18 (2003 est.)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 240
1,524 to 2,437 m: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 89
under 914 m: 139 (2003 est.)
Military Venezuela
Military branches:
National Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Nacionales or FAN) includes Ground Forces or Army (Fuerzas Terrestres or Ejercito), Naval Forces (Fuerzas Navales or Armada - including marines and Coast Guard), Air Force (Fuerzas Aereas or Aviacion), Armed Forces of Cooperation or National Guard (Fuerzas Armadas de Cooperacion or Guardia Nacional)
Military manpower - military age:
18 years of age (2004 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 6,886,775 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 4,953,803 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 250,730 (2004 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$1,125.6 million (2003)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1.3% (2003)
Transnational Issues Venezuela
Disputes - international:
claims all of the area west of the Essequibo River, preventing any discussion of a maritime boundary; Guyana has expressed its intention to join Barbados in asserting claims before UNCLOS that the Trinidad and Tobago's maritime boundary with Venezuela extends into their waters; maritime boundary dispute with Colombia in the Gulf of Venezuela and the Caribbean Sea; US, France and the Netherlands recognize Venezuela's claim to give full effect to Aves Island, which creates a Venezuelan EEZ/continental shelf extending over a large portion of the Caribbean Sea; Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines protest Venezuela's claim that Aves Island sustains human habitation and other states' recognition of it
Illicit drugs:
small-scale illicit producer of opium and coca for the processing of opiates and coca derivatives; however, large quantities of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana transit the country from Colombia bound for US and Europe; significant narcotics-related money-laundering activity, especially along the border with Colombia and on Margarita Island; active eradication program primarily targeting opium; increasing signs of drug-related activities by Colombian insurgents on border