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Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela[1]
República Bolivariana de Venezuela  (Spanish)
Flag Coat of arms
MottoHistoric: Dios y Federación  (Spanish)
"God and Federation"
AnthemGloria al Bravo Pueblo  (Spanish)
Glory to the Brave People

Capital
(and largest city)
Caracas
10°30′N 66°58′W / 10.5°N 66.967°W / 10.5; -66.967
Official language(s) Spanish[2]
National language Spanish [2]
Ethnic groups  67% Mestizo,
21% White,
1% Amerindian,
9% others (Africans, Arabs, Asians)[citation needed]
Demonym Venezuelan
Government Federal presidential republic
 -  President Hugo Chávez Frías
 -  Vice President Elías Jaua
Independence
 -  from Spain 5 July 1811 
 -  from Gran Colombia 13 January 1830 
 -  Recognized 30 March 1845 
Area
 -  Total 916,445 km2 (33rd)
353,841 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.32[3]
Population
 -  July 2009 estimate 26,814,843 (40th)
 -  2001 census 23,054,985 
 -  Density 30.2/km2 (173rd)
77/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $359.210 billion[1] (31st)
 -  Per capita $12,806[1] (63rd)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $319.443 billion[1] (31st)
 -  Per capita $11,388[1] (53rd)
Gini (2007) 42.2[2] (high
HDI (2007) 0.844[3] (high) (58th)
Currency Bolívar fuerte[4] (VEF)
Time zone UTC-4:30
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .ve
Calling code +58
^ The "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" has been the full official title since the adoption of the new Constitution of 1999, when the state was renamed in honor of Simón Bolívar.
^ The Constitution also recognizes all indigenous languages spoken in the country.
^ Area totals include only Venezuelan-administered territory.
^ On 1 January 2008 a new bolivar, the bolívar fuerte (ISO 4217 code VEF), worth 1,000 VEB, was introduced.

Venezuela (pronounced /ˌvɛnɨˈzweɪlə/ or /ˌvɛnɨˈzwɛlə/; in Spanish pronounced [beneˈswela]), officially titled Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Spanish: República Bolivariana de Venezuela), is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It is a continental mainland with numerous islands located off its coastline in the Caribbean Sea. The republic won its independence from Spain in 1821.

Venezuela borders Guyana to the east, Brazil to the south, and Colombia to the west. Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Lucia, Barbados, Curaçao, Bonaire, Aruba, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Leeward Antilles lie just north, off the Venezuelan coast. Its size is 912,050 km² with an estimated population of 26,414,816. Its capital is Caracas. The colors of the Venezuelan flag are yellow, blue and red, in that order: the yellow stands for land wealth, the blue for the sea and sky of the country, and the red for the blood shed by the heroes of independence.[4]

Venezuela has territorial disputes with Guyana, largely concerning the Essequibo area, and with Colombia concerning the Gulf of Venezuela. In 1895, after the dispute over the Essequibo River border flared up, it was submitted to a neutral commission (composed of United Kingdom, United States and Russian representatives and without a direct Venezuelan representative), which in 1899 decided mostly against Venezuela's claim.[5] Venezuela is known widely for its petroleum industry, the environmental diversity of its territory, and its natural features. Venezuela is considered to be among the world's 17 most biodiverse countries,[6] featuring diverse wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.

Venezuela is among the most urbanized countries in Latin America;[7][8] the vast majority of Venezuelans live in the cities of the north, especially in the capital Caracas which is also the largest city. Other major cities include Maracaibo, Valencia, Maracay, Barquisimeto, Merida, Barcelona-Puerto La Cruz and Ciudad Guayana.

Contents

Etymology

A palafito, a village or dwelling erected on bodies of water. [9]

In 1498, within the framework of his third voyage, Christopher Columbus sailed near the Orinoco Delta, then interned in the Gulf of Paria. Amazed, Columbus expressed in his moving letter to the Catholic Monarchs that he had reached the heaven on earth (the paradise), and confused by the unusual saltiness of the water, he wrote:

Great signs are these of the Terrestrial Paradise, for the site conforms to the opinion of the holy and wise theologians whom I have mentioned. And likewise, the [other] signs conform very well, for I have never read or heard of such a large quantity of fresh water being inside and in such close proximity to salt water; the very mild temperateness also corroborates this; and if the water of which I speak does not proceed from Paradise then it is an even greater marvel, because I do not believe such a large and deep river has ever been known to exist in this world. [10]

His certainty of having attained Paradise made him name this region Land of Grace, a phrase which has become the country's nickname.

Nevertheless, the following year (1499), an expedition led by Alonso de Ojeda visited the Venezuelan coast. The stilt houses in the area of Lake Maracaibo reminded the navigator Amerigo Vespucci of the city of Venice, (Italian: Venezia), so he named the region "Venezuela,"[11] meaning "little Venice" in Italian. The word has the same meaning in Spanish, where the suffix -zuela is used as a diminutive term (e.g., plaza / plazuela, cazo / cazuela); thus, the term's original sense would have been that of a "little Venice."[12]

Nonetheless, although the Vespucci story remains the most popular and accepted version of the origin of the country's name, a different reason for the name comes up in the account of Martín Fernández de Enciso, a member of the Vespucci and Ojeda crew. In his work Summa de Geografía, he states that they found an indigenous population who called themselves the "Veneciuela," which suggests that the name "Venezuela" may have evolved from the native word.[13]

History

Signing of Venezuela's independence by Martín Tovar y Tovar

Human habitation of Venezuela could have commenced at least 15,000 years ago from which period leaf-shaped tools, together with chopping and plano-convex scraping implements, have been found exposed on the high riverine terraces of the Rio Pedregal in western Venezuela.[14] Late Pleistocene hunting artifacts, including spear tips, have been found at a similar series of sites in northwestern Venezuela known as "El Jobo"; according to radiocarbon dating, these date from 13,000 to 7,000 BC.[15]

Venezuela was first colonized by Spain in 1522 in what is now Cumaná. These portions of eastern Venezuela were incorporated into New Andalusia. Administered by the Audiencia of Santo Domingo since the early 16th century, most of Venezuela became part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in the early 18th century, and was then reorganized as an autonomous Captaincy General starting in 1776.

In the 16th century, during the Spanish colonization, indigenous peoples such as many of the Mariches, themselves descendants of the Caribs rejected paganism and embraced Roman Catholicism. Some Spaniards treated the natives harshly. Indian caciques (leaders) such as Guaicaipuro and Tamanaco attempted to resist Spanish incursions, but were ultimately defeated; Tamanaco was put to death by order of Caracas' founder Diego de Losada.[16]

After a series of unsuccessful uprisings, Venezuela—under the leadership of Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan marshal who had fought in the American Revolution and the French Revolutiondeclared independence on 5 July 1811. This began the Venezuelan War of Independence. However, a devastating earthquake that struck Caracas in 1812, together with the rebellion of the Venezuelan llaneros, helped bring down the first Venezuelan republic.[17] A second Venezuelan republic, proclaimed on 7 August 1813, lasted several months before being crushed as well.

Simón Bolívar, liberator of not only Venezuela, but also Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru

Sovereignty was only attained after Simón Bolívar, aided by José Antonio Páez and Antonio José de Sucre, won the Battle of Carabobo on 24 June 1821. José Prudencio Padilla and Rafael Urdaneta's victory in the Battle of Lake Maracaibo on 24 July 1823, helped seal Venezuelan independence. New Granada's congress gave Bolívar control of the Granadian army; leading it, he liberated several countries and founded Gran Colombia.

Sucre, who won many battles for Bolívar, went on to liberate Ecuador and later become the second president of Bolivia. Venezuela remained part of Gran Colombia until 1830, when a rebellion led by Páez allowed the proclamation of a newly independent Venezuela; Páez became the first president of the new republic. Two decades of warfare had cost the lives of between a quarter and a third of the Venezuelan population, which in 1830 numbered no more than 800,000.[18]

Much of Venezuela's nineteenth century history was characterized by political turmoil and dictatorial rule.[19] During the first half of the 20th century, caudillos (military strongmen) continued to dominate, though they generally allowed for mild social reforms and promoted economic growth. Following the death of Juan Vicente Gómez in 1935 and the demise of caudillismo (authoritarian rule), pro-democracy movements eventually forced the military to withdraw from direct involvement in national politics in 1958. Since that year, Venezuela has had a series of democratically elected governments.[2]

The discovery of massive oil deposits during World War I prompted an economic boom that lasted into the 1980s; by 1935, Venezuela's per capita gross domestic product was Latin America's highest.[20] After World War II the globalization and heavy immigration from Southern Europe (mainly from Spain, Italy, Portugal) and poorer Latin American countries markedly diversified Venezuelan society.

The huge public spending and accumulation of internal and external debts during the Petrodollar years of the 1970s and early 1980s, followed by the collapse of oil prices during the 1980s, crippled the Venezuelan economy. As the government started to devaluate the currency in February 1983 in order to face its financial obligations, Venezuelans' real standard of living fell dramatically. A number of failed economic policies and increasing corruption in government led to rising poverty and crime, worsening social indicators, and increased political instability.[21]

In February 1992 Hugo Chávez, an army paratrooper, staged a coup d'état attempt seeking to overthrow the government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez. Chávez failed and was placed in jail. In November 1992, another unsuccessful coup attempt occurred, organized by groups loyal to Chávez remaining in the armed forces.[22] Chávez was pardoned in March 1994 by president Rafael Caldera, with a clean slate and his political rights intact.

In 1998, Chávez was elected president after a vigorous campaign, in contrast with the feeble discourse of the weakened traditional parties' candidates.[22] His reform program, which he later called the "Bolivarian Revolution", was aimed at redistributing the benefits of Venezuela's oil wealth to the lower socio-economic groups by using it to fund programs such as health care and education, but has encountered great criticism by the previous establishment. In April 2002 he suffered a coup d'état.[23] He was returned to power after two days as a result of popular demonstrations in his favour and actions by the military.[24] Chávez has also survived an all-out national strike that lasted more than two months in December 2002 – February 2003, including a strike/lockout in the state oil company PDVSA, and a recall referendum in August 2004. He was elected for another term in December 2006.

Economy

* Sources: WDI/World Bank. GDP and GDP per capita is in year 2000 VEB, adjusted for inflation. Unemployment data for 2005 is the CIA World Factbook estimate. 1 trillion = 1,000,000,000,000. The vertical scales do not start at 0 to make more details visible. Oil production figures from IEA in millions of barrels per day.
The 20 Venezuelan bolívar fuerte banknote featuring a portrait of Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi.

The petroleum sector dominates Venezuela mixed economy, accounting for roughly a third of GDP, around 80% of exports and more than half of government revenues. Gold, diamonds and iron ore are mined as well. Venezuela contains some of the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world. It consistently ranks among the top ten crude oil producers in the world.[25]

The country's main petroleum deposits are located around and beneath Lake Maracaibo, the Gulf of Venezuela (both in Zulia), and in the Orinoco River basin (eastern Venezuela), where the country's largest reserve is located. Venezuela has the least expensive petrol in the world because of its high government subsidies.

Inflation has been a problem. It was expected to slow to 26% annually in 2009, according to the president of the national bank, Nelson Merentes.[26]

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Personal income

Per capita GDP for 2008 was US$13,500, ranking it 84th in the world.[27] About 30 % of the population of the country live on less than US$ 2 per day.[28]

Petroleum and other resources

When oil was discovered at the Maracaibo strike in 1922, Venezuela's dictator Juan Vicente Gómez allowed Americans to write Venezuela's petroleum law.[29] But oil history was made in 1943 when Standard Oil of New Jersey accepted a new agreement in Venezuela based on the 50–50 principle, "a landmark event."[30]

Terms even more favorable to Venezuela were negotiated in 1945, after a coup brought to power a left-leaning government that included Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso. In 1958 a new government again included Pérez Alfonso, who devised a plan for the international oil cartel that would become OPEC.[31] In 1973 Venezuela voted to nationalize its oil industry outright, effective 1 January 1976, with Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) taking over and presiding over a number of holding companies; in subsequent years, Venezuela built a vast refining and marketing system in the U.S. and Europe.[32]

The Venezuelan oil producer PDVSA wholly owns its United States based subsidiary, Citgo and attributes a large percentage of its wealth to oil sales from the United States

Economic prospects remain highly dependent on oil prices and the export of petroleum. A founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Venezuela reasserted its leadership within the organization during its year as OPEC's president, hosting the organization's Second Leadership Conference in 40 years, as well as having its former Minister of Energy, Alvaro Silva Calderon, appointed as Secretary General.

The collapse of oil prices in 1997–98 prompted the Rodriguez administration to expand OPEC-inspired production cuts in an effort to raise world oil prices. In 2002, this sector accounted for roughly a quarter of GDP, 73% of export earnings, and about half of central government's operating revenues. Venezuela is the fourth-leading supplier of imported crude and refined petroleum products to the United States.

The Government of Venezuela has opened up much of the hydrocarbon sector to foreign investment, promoting multi-billion dollar investment in heavy oil production, reactivation of old fields, and investment in several petrochemical joint ventures. Almost 60 foreign companies representing 14 different countries participate in one or more aspects of Venezuela's oil sector.

The Venezuelan national oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) and foreign oil companies have signed 33 operating contracts for marginal fields in three bidding rounds. New legislation dealing with natural gas and petrochemicals is further opening the sector. A new domestic retail competition law, however, disappointed investors who had been promised market-determined prices.

On 13 November 2001, under the enabling law authorized by the National Assembly, President Chávez enacted the new Hydrocarbons Law, which came into effect in January 2002. This law replaced the Hydrocarbons Law of 1943 and the Nationalization Law of 1975. Among other things, the new law provided that all oil production and distribution activities were to be the domain of the Venezuelan state, with the exception of joint ventures targeting extra-heavy crude oil production. Under the new Hydrocarbons Law, private investors can own up to 49% of the capital stock in joint ventures involved in upstream activities. The new law also provides that private investors may own up to 100% of the capital stock in ventures concerning downstream activities, in addition to the 100% already allowed for private investors with respect to gas production ventures, as previously promulgated by the National Assembly.

During the December 2002-February 2003 all-out national strike where managers and skilled highly paid technicians of PDVSA shut down the plants and left their posts, petroleum production and refining by PDVSA almost ceased. At the same time, many business owners across Venezuela closed down their stores, both actions aimed at ousting Chavez from government. After more than 60 days of getting nowhere the strike died off, and activities eventually were slowly restarted by returning and substitute oil workers. Out of a total of 45,000 PDVSA management and workers, some 19,000 were subsequently dismissed with no compensation; many of whom were managers and highly paid professionals and technicians who thereafter were banned from working in the petroleum industry, even indirectly.

Manufacturing, agriculture, and trade

Venezuela has a newly developed electronics sector, which produces the Vergatario, the worlds cheapest full media mobile phone,[citation needed], with assistance from Chinese electronics company ZTE.

Manufacturing contributed 17% of GDP in 2006. Venezuela manufactures and exports steel, electronics, aluminum, automobiles, textiles, apparel, beverages, and foodstuffs. It produces cement, tires, paper, fertilizer, and assembles cars both for domestic and export markets.[citation needed]

Agriculture accounts for approximately 3% of GDP, 10% of the labor force, and at least one-fourth of Venezuela's land area. Venezuela exports rice, corn, fish, tropical fruit, coffee, beef, and pork. The country is not self-sufficient in most areas of agriculture; Venezuela imports about two-thirds of its food needs. In 2002, U.S. firms exported $347 million worth of agricultural products, including wheat, corn, soybeans, soybean meal, cotton, animal fats, vegetable oils, and other items to make Venezuela one of the top two U.S. markets in South America.

Due to petroleum exports, Venezuela usually posts a trade surplus. In recent years, nonpetroleum exports have been growing rapidly but still constitute only about one-fourth of total exports.[citation needed] The United States is Venezuela's leading trade partner although Brazil is expected to surpass the U.S. by 2011. During 2002, the United States exported $4.4 billion in goods to Venezuela, making it the 25th-largest market for the U.S. Including petroleum products, Venezuela exported $15.1 billion in goods to the U.S., making it its 14th-largest source of goods.[citation needed]

Geography

Venezuela is a country in the north of South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea. It is bounded on the south by Brazil, and on the west by Colombia. Venezuela has a total area of 916,445 square kilometres (353,841 sq mi) and a land area of 882,050 square kilometres (340,560 sq mi), about twice the size of California. Shaped roughly like an inverted triangle, the country has a 2,800 kilometres (1,700 mi) coastline.

With 2,800 kilometres (1,740 mi) of coastline, there is a variety of landscapes. The extreme northeastern extensions of the Andes reach into Venezuela's northwest and continue along the northern Caribbean coast. Pico Bolívar, the nation's highest point at 4,979 metres (16,335 ft), lies in this region. The country's center is characterized by the llanos, which are extensive plains that stretch from the Colombian border in the far west to the Orinoco River delta in the east.

To the south, the dissected Guiana Highlands contains the northern fringes of the Amazon Basin and Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall as well as tepuis, large table-like mountains. The Orinoco, with its rich alluvial soils, binds the largest and most important river system of the country; it originates in one of the largest watersheds in Latin America. The Caroní and the Apure are other major rivers.

The Insular Region includes all of Venezuela's island possessions: Nueva Esparta and the various Federal Dependencies. The Deltaic System, which forms a triangle covering Delta Amacuro, projects northeast into the Atlantic Ocean.

The country can be further divided into ten geographical areas, some corresponding to climatic and biogeographical regions. In the north are the Venezuelan Andes and the Coro region, a mountainous tract in the northwest, holds several sierras and valleys. East of it are lowlands abutting Lake Maracaibo and the Gulf of Venezuela. The Central Range runs parallel to the coast and includes the hills surrounding Caracas; the Eastern Range, separated from the Central Range by the Gulf of Cariaco, covers all of Sucre and northern Monagas.

Geology

Venezuela's mainland rests on the South American Plate.

Flora and fauna

The araguaney (Tabebuia chrysantha), Venezuela's national tree.

Venezuela lies within the Neotropic ecozone; large portions of the country were originally covered by moist broadleaf forests. One of seventeen megadiverse countries and among the top twenty countries in terms of endemism, some 38% of the over 21,000 plant species are unique to the country; 23% of reptilian and 50% of amphibian species are also endemic.[33]

Venezuela hosts significant biodiversity across habitats ranging from xeric scrublands in the extreme northwest to coastal mangrove forests in the northeast.[19] Its cloud forests and lowland rainforests are particularly rich, for example hosting over 25,000 species of orchids.[34] These include the flor de mayo orchid (Cattleya mossiae), the national flower.

The golden silk orb-weaver is among the more common of Venezuela's arthropods.

Venezuela's national tree is the araguaney, whose characteristic lushness after the rainy season led novelist Rómulo Gallegos to name it «[l]a primavera de oro de los araguaneyes» ("the golden spring of the araguaneyes"). Notable mammals include the giant anteater, jaguar, and the capybara, the world's largest rodent. More than half of Venezuelan avian and mammalian species are found in the Amazonian forests south of the Orinoco.[35]

Manatees, Boto river dolphins, and Orinoco crocodiles, which have been reported to reach up to 6.6 metres (22 ft) in length, are notable aquatic species. Venezuela hosts a total of 1,417 bird species, 48 of which are endemic.[36] Important birds include ibises, ospreys, kingfishers, and the yellow-orange turpial, the national bird.

In recent decades, logging, mining, shifting cultivation, development, and other human activities have posed a major threat to Venezuela's wildlife; between 1990 and 2000, 0.40% of forest cover was cleared annually.[33] In response, federal protections for critical habitat were implemented; for example, 20% to 33% of forested land is protected.[35] The country has a biosphere reserve that is part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.[37] In 2003, 70% of the nation's land was under conservation management in over 200 protected areas, including 43 national parks.[38]

Climate

Snow in Mérida

Though Venezuela is entirely situated in the tropics, its climate varies from humid low-elevation plains, where average annual temperatures range as high as 28 °C (82 °F), to glaciers and highlands (the páramos) with an average yearly temperature of 8 °C (46 °F). Annual rainfall varies between 430 millimetres (17 in) in the semiarid portions of the northwest to 1,000 millimetres (39 in) in the Orinoco Delta of the far east. Most precipitation falls between June and October (the rainy season or "winter"); the drier and hotter remainder of the year is known as "summer", though temperature variation throughout the year is not as pronounced as at temperate latitudes.[19]

The country falls into four horizontal temperature zones based primarily on elevation, having Tropical, Dry, Temperate with Dry Winters, and Polar (Alpine tundra) climates, amongst others.[39][40][41] In the tropical zone—below 800 meters—temperatures are hot, with yearly averages ranging between 26°C and 28°C. The temperate zone ranges between 800 and 2,000 meters with averages from 12°C to 25°C; many of Venezuela's cities, including the capital, lie in this region. Colder conditions with temperatures from 9°C to 11°C are found in the cool zone between 2,000 and 3,000 meters, especially in the venezuelan Andes, where Pastureland and permanent snowfield with yearly averages below 8°C cover land above 3,000 in the high mountain areas known as the páramos.

Subdivisions

Venezuela is divided into 23 states (estados), a capital district (distrito capital) corresponding to the city of Caracas, the Federal Dependencies (Dependencias Federales, a special territory), and Guayana Esequiba (claimed in a border dispute with Guyana). Venezuela is further subdivided into 335 municipalities (municipios); these are subdivided into over one thousand parishes (parroquias). The states are grouped into nine administrative regions (regiones administrativas), which were established in 1969 by presidential decree. Historically, Venezuela has also claimed all Guyanese territory west of the Essequibo River; this 159,500 square kilometres (61,583 sq mi) tract was dubbed Guayana Esequiba or the Zona en Reclamación (the "zone to be reclaimed").[42]

States
Venezuela Division Politica Territorial.svg
 Name Capital
1 Flag of Amazonas Amazonas Puerto Ayacucho
2 Flag of Anzoátegui Anzoátegui Barcelona
3 Flag of Apure Apure San Fernando de Apure
4 Flag of Aragua Aragua Maracay
5 Flag of Barinas Barinas Barinas
6 Flag of Bolívar Bolívar Ciudad Bolívar
7 Flag of Carabobo Carabobo Valencia
8 Flag of Cojedes Cojedes San Carlos
9 Flag of Delta Amacuro Delta Amacuro   Tucupita
10 Flag of Falcón Falcón Coro
11 Flag of Guárico Guárico San Juan De Los Morros      
12 Flag of Lara Lara Barquisimeto
 Name Capital
13 Flag of Mérida Mérida Mérida
14 Banderamiranda.jpg Miranda Los Teques
15 Flag of Monagas Monagas Maturín
16 Flag of Nueva Esparta Nueva Esparta   La Asunción
17 Flag of Portuguesa Portuguesa Guanare
18 Flag of Sucre Sucre Cumaná
19 Flag of Táchira Táchira San Cristóbal  
20 Flag of Trujillo Trujillo Trujillo
21 Flag of Vargas Vargas La Guaira
22 Flag of Yaracuy Yaracuy San Felipe
23 Flag of Zulia Zulia Maracaibo
Dependencies
         Name Capital
   Flag of Venezuelan Federal Dependencies Federal Dependencies (none)
Administrative regions
Venezuela Regiones Administrativas.svg
      Name Subregions
     Andean Barinas, Mérida, Táchira, Trujillo, Páez Municipality of Apure
     Capital Miranda, Vargas, Capital District
     Central Aragua, Carabobo, Cojedes
     Central-Western Falcón, Lara, Portuguesa, Yaracuy
     Guayana Bolívar, Amazonas, Delta Amacuro
     Insular Nueva Esparta, Federal Dependencies
     Llanos Apure (excluding Paez Municipality), Guárico
     North-Eastern Anzoátegui, Monagas, Sucre
     Zulian Zulia

Demographics

Venezuela's birth rate is among the highest in South America, after Bolivia, Paraguay and French Guyana.

Since 1930, Venezuelan census does not contain information about ethnicity so only rough estimates are available. Some 60% of the population are Mestizo defined as a mixture of Europeans and Amerindians, respectively; another 30% are whites, mostly of Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German descent. Two of the main Amerindian tribes located in the country are the Wayuu, located in the west, in Zulia, and the Timotocuicas, also in the west, in Mérida, in the Andes. Other important groups include Afro-Venezuelans, though their numbers are unclear due to poor census data.[43]

People from the Asian continent, mainly Lebanese and Chinese, make up a small percentage of the population. About 1% of Venezuelans are indigenous.[44] These groups were joined by sponsored migrants from throughout Europe and neighboring parts of South America by the mid-20th century economic boom.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Venezuela hosted a population of refugee and asylum seekers from Colombia numbering 252,200 in 2007. 10,600 new asylum seekers entered Venezuela in 2007.[45] Between 500,000 and one million illegal immigrants are estimated to be living in the Venezuela.[46]

About 85% of the population live in urban areas in northern Venezuela; 73% live less than 100 kilometres (62 mi) from the coastline.[47] Though almost half of Venezuela's land area lies south of the Orinoco, only 5% of Venezuelans live there.

The national and official language is Spanish; 31 indigenous languages are also spoken, including Guajibo, Pemon, Warao, Wayuu, and the various Yanomaman languages.

Religion

According to government estimates, 92% of the population is at least nominally Roman Catholic, and the remaining 8% are Protestant, or a member of another religion. The Venezuelan Evangelical Council estimates that Evangelical Protestants constitute 10% of the population.[48]

Government

Executive

The Venezuelan president is elected by a vote with direct and universal suffrage, and is both head of state and head of government. The term of office is six years, and (as of 15 February 2009) a president may be re-elected an unlimited number of times. The president appoints the vice-president and decides the size and composition of the Cabinet and makes appointments to it with the involvement of the legislature. The president can ask the legislature to reconsider portions of laws he finds objectionable, but a simple parliamentary majority can override these objections.

Legislative

The unicameral Venezuelan parliament is the Asamblea Nacional ("National Assembly"). Its 167 deputies, of which three are reserved for indigenous people, serve five-year terms and may be re-elected for a maximum of two additional terms. They are elected by popular vote through a combination of party lists and single member constituencies.

The voting age in Venezuela is 18 and older. Voting is not compulsory.[49]

Judicial

The highest judicial body is the Supreme Tribunal of Justice or Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, whose magistrates are elected by parliament for a single twelve-year term. The National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, or CNE) is in charge of electoral processes; it is formed by five main directors elected by the National Assembly. Supreme Court president Luisa Estela Morales said in December 2009 that Venezuela had moved away from "a rigid division of powers" toward a system characterized by "intense coordination" between the branches of government. Morales clarified that each power must be independent adding that "one thing is separation of powers and another one is division".[50]

Politics

There are currently two major blocs of political parties in Venezuela: the incumbent leftist bloc United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), its major allies Fatherland for All (PPT) and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), and the opposition bloc led by A New Era (UNT) together with its allied parties Project Venezuela, Justice First, Movement for Socialism and others.

Following the fall of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958, Venezuelan politics was dominated by the third-way Christian democratic COPEI and the center-left social democratic Democratic Action (AD) parties; this two-party system was formalized by the puntofijismo arrangement. However, this system has been sidelined following the 1998 election of current President Hugo Chávez, which started what he calls the Bolivarian Revolution.

Most of the political opposition boycotted the 2005 parliamentary election. Consequently, Hugo Chávez's MVR-led bloc secured all 167 seats in the National Assembly. Then, the MVR voted to dissolve itself and join the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela, while Chávez requested that MVR-allied parties merge themselves into it as well. The National Assembly has twice voted to grant Chávez the ability to rule by decree for several months in several broadly defined areas, once in 2000 and again in 2007. This power had only rarely been granted to previous administrations, and then only for extraordinary circumstances and for a short time.[51][52][53] Chavez has established alliance with several Latin American countries which have elected leftist governments, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Paraguay.

There is a controversy regarding the independence of justice, the opposition arguing that the justice system is used as a weapon against opponents. The government denies that.[54][55]

Health

University Hospital, Central University of Venezuela

Venezuela has a national universal health care system that is free of charge. The current government has created a program to expand access to health care known as Misión Barrio Adentro.[56][57]

Infant mortality in Venezuela stood at 16 deaths per 1,000 births in 2004, lower than the South American average (by comparison, the U.S. stands at 5 deaths per 1,000 births in 2006).[58][59][60] Child malnutrition (defined as stunting or wasting in children under age five) stands at 17%; Delta Amacuro and Amazonas have the nation's highest rates.[61] According to the United Nations, 32% of Venezuelans lack adequate sanitation, primarily those living in rural areas.[62] Diseases ranging from typhoid, yellow fever, cholera, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis D are present in the country.[63]

In 2009, Chavez requested that the people take three minute showers because of a water shortage. Other sources point to underinvestment as an added problem.[64]

Venezuela has a total of 150 plants for sewage treatment. However still 13% of the population lack access to drinking water but this number seems to be dropping.[65]

Travelers to Venezuela are advised to obtain vaccinations for a variety of diseases including typhoid, yellow fever, cholera, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis D.[66] In a cholera epidemic of contemporary times in the Orinoco Delta, Venezuela's political leaders were accused of racial profiling of their own indigenous people to deflect blame from the country's institutions, thereby aggravating the epidemic.[67]

The nation had one of the worst murder rates in the world, 96[68] homicides every 100,000 inhabitants in 2007.[69][70] In 2008, the Interior Minister resigned, apparently because he had failed to change voter perceptions that crime was out of control.[71] In 2008, polls indicated that crime was the number one concern of voters.[72]

Foreign relations

President Hugo Chávez with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Throughout most of the 20th century, Venezuela maintained friendly relations with most Latin American and Western nations. Relations between Venezuela and the United States government worsened in 2002, after the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt during which the U.S. government recognized the short-lived interim presidency of Pedro Carmona. Correspondingly, ties to various Latin American and Middle Eastern countries not allied to the U.S. have strengthened.

Venezuela seeks alternative hemispheric integration via such proposals as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas trade proposal and the newly launched pan-Latin American television network teleSUR. The Venezuelan government has also expressed its support for the Russian position on the International recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which United States and its allies strongly oppose. Venezuela was a proponent of OAS's decision to adopt its Anti-Corruption Convention, and is actively working in the Mercosur trade bloc to push increased trade and energy integration. Globally, it seeks a "multi-polar" world based on strengthened ties among Third World countries.

Military

Venezuelan soldiers in a military parade, holding an AK-103, Venezuelan Army
Su-30MKV of the Venezuelan Air Force

The National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Fuerza Armada Nacional, FAN) are the overall unified military forces of Venezuela. It includes over 129,150 men and women, under Article 328 of the Constitution, in 5 components of Ground, Sea and Air. The components of the National Armed Forces are: the Venezuelan Army, the Venezuelan Navy, the Venezuelan Air Force, the Venezuelan National Guard, and the Venezuelan National Militia

As of 2008, a further 600,000 soldiers were incorporated into a new branch, known as the Armed Reserve. The President of Venezuela is the commander-in-chief of the national armed forces. The main roles of the armed forces are to defend the sovereign national territory of Venezuela, airspace, and islands, fight against drug trafficking, to search and rescue and, in the case of a natural disaster, civil protection. All men that are citizens of Venezuela have a constitutional duty to register for the military at the age of 18, which is the age of majority in Venezuela.

Culture

The joropo, as depicted in a 1912 drawing by Eloy Palacios
Cover of Alma Llanera

Venezuela's heritage, art, and culture have been heavily influenced by the Caribbean context. These elements extend to its historic buildings, architecture,[73] art,[74] landscape, boundaries, and monuments. Venezuelan culture has been shaped by indigenous, Spanish and African influences. Before this period, indigenous culture was expressed in art (petroglyphs), crafts, architecture (shabonos), and social organization. Aboriginal culture was subsequently assimilated by Spaniards; over the years, the hybrid culture had diversified by region.

Venezuelan art was initially dominated by religious motifs but began emphasizing historical and heroic representations in the late 19th century, a move led by Martín Tovar y Tovar. Modernism took over in the 20th century. Notable Venezuelan artists include Arturo Michelena, Cristóbal Rojas, Armando Reverón, Manuel Cabré; the kinetic artists Jesús-Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez; and contemporary artist Yucef Merhi.

Venezuelan literature originated soon after the Spanish conquest of the mostly pre-literate indigenous societies; it was dominated by Spanish influences. Following the rise of political literature during the War of Independence, Venezuelan Romanticism, notably expounded by Juan Vicente González, emerged as the first important genre in the region. Although mainly focused on narrative writing, Venezuelan literature was advanced by poets such as Andrés Eloy Blanco and Fermín Toro.

Major writers and novelists include Rómulo Gallegos, Teresa de la Parra, Arturo Uslar Pietri, Adriano González León, Miguel Otero Silva, and Mariano Picón Salas. The great poet and humanist Andrés Bello was also an educator and intellectual. Others, such as Laureano Vallenilla Lanz and José Gil Fortoul, contributed to Venezuelan Positivism.

Carlos Raúl Villanueva was the most important Venezuelan architect of the modern era; he designed the Central University of Venezuela, (a World Heritage Site) and its Aula Magna. Other notable architectural works include the Capitolio, the Baralt Theatre, the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex, and the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge.

Indigenous musical styles of Venezuela are exemplified by the groups Un Solo Pueblo and Serenata Guayanesa. The national musical instrument is the cuatro. Typical musical styles and pieces mainly emerged in and around the llanos region, including Alma Llanera (by Pedro Elías Gutiérrez and Rafael Bolivar Coronado), Florentino y el Diablo (by Alberto Arvelo Torrealba), Concierto en la Llanura by Juan Vicente Torrealba, and Caballo Viejo (by Simón Díaz).

The Zulian gaita is also a popular style, generally performed during Christmas. The national dance is the joropo. Teresa Carreño was a world-famous 19th century piano virtuosa. In the last years, Classical Music has had great performances. The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra has realized excellent presentations in many European concert halls, notably at the 2007 Proms, and has received honors of the public.

Baseball is Venezuela's most popular sport, although football (soccer), spearheaded by the Venezuela national football team, is gaining influence.

Venezuela is well-known for its successions in beauty pageants. Miss Venezuela is a big event in the country, and Venezuela has received 5 Miss World, 6 Miss Universe and 5 Miss International titles.

The World Values Survey has consistently shown Venezuelans to be among the happiest people in the world, with 55% of those questioned saying they were "very happy".[75]

Education

In 2008, 95.2% of the adult population was literate.[citation needed] Net primary school enrollment rate was at 91 % in 2005.[76] Net secondary enrollment rate was at 63 % in 2005.[76] Venezuela has a number of universities.

See also

References

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External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Noun

Venezuelans

  1. Plural form of Venezuelan.

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