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Flag of Venezuela
Map of Venezuela
Introduction Venezuela
Venezuela was one of the 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 is losing his once solid support among Venezuelans, 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
land: 882,050 sq km
water: 30,000 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:
contiguous zone: 15 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
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%
permanent crops: 0.96%
other: 96.05% (1998 est.)
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, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Dumping
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
24,287,670 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 31.6% (male 3,955,132; female 3,710,159)
15-64 years: 63.6% (male 7,756,362; female 7,695,738)
65 years and over: 4.8% (male 533,559; female 636,720) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.52% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
20.22 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
4.91 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
-0.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.84 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
24.58 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 73.56 years
female: 76.81 years (2002 est.)
male: 70.53 years
Total fertility rate:
2.41 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.49% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
62,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
2,000 (1999 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: 91.1%
male: 91.8%
female: 90.3% (1995 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 [Claudio FERMIN]; Fifth Republic Movement or MVR [Garcia PONCE]; Homeland for All or PPT [Jose ALBORNIZ]; 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 [Oswaldo ALVAREZ Paz]; 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 (vacant); Charge d' Affaires Luis HERERRA Marcano
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:
The petroleum sector dominates the economy, accounting for roughly a third of GDP, around 80% of export earnings, and more than half of government operating revenues. Venezuelan officials estimate that GDP grew by 2.7% in 2001. A strong rebound in international oil prices fueled the recovery from the steep recession in 1999. Nevertheless, a weak nonoil sector and capital flight - and a temporary fall in oil prices - undercut the recovery. In early 2002, President CHAVEZ changed the exchange rate regime from a crawling peg to a free floating exchange rate, causing the bolivar to depreciate significantly.
purchasing power parity - $146.2 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.7% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $6,100 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5%
industry: 40%
services: 55% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
67% (1997 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 38% (1997) (1997)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
49 (1997)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
12.3% (2001) (2001)
Labor force:
9.9 million (1999) (1999)
Labor force - by occupation:
services 64%, industry 23%, agriculture 13% (1997 est.)
Unemployment rate:
14.1% (2001 est.)
revenues: $21.5 billion
expenditures: $27 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.) (2000 est.)
petroleum, iron ore mining, construction materials, food processing, textiles, steel, aluminum, motor vehicle assembly
Industrial production growth rate:
Electricity - production:
80.754 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 23%
hydro: 77%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
75.101 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
corn, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, bananas, vegetables, coffee; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish
$29.5 billion f.o.b. (2001)
Exports - commodities:
petroleum, bauxite and aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products, basic manufactures
Exports - partners:
US 60%, Brazil 5.5%, Colombia 3.5%, Italy 3.5%, Spain 3.4% (2000)
$18.4 billion f.o.b. (2001)
Imports - commodities:
raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials
Imports - partners:
US 35.8%, Colombia 6.8%, Brazil 4.5%, Germany 3.9%, Italy 3.9% (2000)
Debt - external:
$34.5 billion (2000) (2000)
Economic aid - recipient:
$35 million with more assistance likely as a result of flooding (1999)
bolivar (VEB)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
bolivares per US dollar - 761.225 (January 2002), 723.666 (2001), 679.960 (2000), 605.717 (1999), 547.556 (1998), 488.635 (1997)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Venezuela
Telephones - main lines in use:
2.6 million (however, 3,500,000 have been installed) (1998)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
2 million (1998)
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: 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 Service Providers (ISPs):
16 (2000)
Internet users:
1.3 million (2002)
Transportation Venezuela
total: 682 km
standard gauge: 682 km 1.435-m gauge
note: 248 km of the existing system are privately owned; passenger services are nonexistent; however, a National Railways Plan, intended to provide a significant railway system, has been initiated (2001)
total: 96,155 km
paved: 32,308 km
unpaved: 63,847 km (1997 est.)
7,100 km
note: Rio Orinoco and Lago de Maracaibo accept oceangoing vessels
crude oil 6,370 km; petroleum products 480 km; natural gas 4,010 km
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: 45 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 716,361 GRT/1,267,095 DWT
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Denmark 1, Greece 1, Italy 1, United Kingdom 1, United States 2 (2002 est.)
ships by type: bulk 7, cargo 9, liquefied gas 3, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 14, roll on/roll off 10, short-sea passenger 1
372 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 127
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 11
914 to 1,523 m: 61
under 914 m: 18 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 32
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 246
1,524 to 2,437 m: 10
914 to 1,523 m: 97
under 914 m: 139 (2002)
1 (2002)
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 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 6,647,718 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 4,786,849 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 246,185 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$934 million (FY99)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
0.9% (FY99)
Transnational Issues Venezuela
Disputes - international:
claims all of Guyana west of the Essequibo (river); maritime boundary dispute with Colombia in the Gulf of Venezuela; several Caribbean states protest Venezuela's claim to Islas des Aves (Bird Islands), 565 km from Venezuelan mainland
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

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003