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  Introduction Back To Top

Venezuela was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Ecuador and New Granada, which became Colombia). 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. Hugo CHAVEZ, president since 1999, seeks to implement his "21st Century Socialism," which purports to alleviate social ills while at the same time attacking globalization and undermining regional stability. Current concerns include: a weakening of democratic institutions, political polarization, a politicized military, drug-related violence 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 Back To Top

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 8.37 cu km/yr (6%/7%/47%)
per capita: 313 cu m/yr (2000)

Total renewable water resources:
1,233.2 cu km (2000)

Land boundaries:
total: 4,993 km
border countries: Brazil 2,200 km, Colombia 2,050 km, Guyana 743 km

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed but not ratified:: none of the selected agreements

tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands

Map references:
South America

Geographic coordinates:
8 00 N, 66 00 W

Natural resources:
petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, other minerals, hydropower, diamonds

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Pico Bolivar (La Columna) 5,007 m

Andes Mountains and Maracaibo Lowlands in northwest; central plains (llanos); Guiana Highlands in southeast

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

total: 912,050 sq km
land: 882,050 sq km
water: 30,000 sq km

Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana

2,800 km

Area - comparative:
slightly more than twice the size of California

Irrigated land:
5,750 sq km (2003)

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

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 15 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

Natural hazards:
subject to floods, rockslides, mudslides; periodic droughts

Land use:
arable land: 2.85%
permanent crops: 0.88%
other: 96.27% (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
2.52 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.7%; note - no country specific models provided (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
110,000 (1999 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 73.45 years
male: 70.4 years
female: 76.65 years (2008 est.)

Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: dengue fever, malaria, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis (2008)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93%
male: 93.3%
female: 92.7% (2001 census)

Net migration rate:
-0.84 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Ethnic groups:
Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, indigenous people

Median age:
total: 25.2 years
male: 24.6 years
female: 25.8 years (2008 est.)

26,414,816 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
3.7% of GDP (2006)

Population growth rate:
1.498% (2008 est.)

Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects

Death rate:
5.1 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 22.02 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 25.61 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 18.26 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
4,100 (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 12 years
male: 11 years
female: 12 years (2003)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 31% (male 4,162,862/female 4,034,044)
15-64 years: 63.8% (male 8,299,266/female 8,562,290)
65 years and over: 5.1% (male 602,725/female 753,628) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
20.92 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

nominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%

noun: Venezuelan(s)
adjective: Venezuelan

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires John CAULFIELD
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) 975-6411, 907-8400 (after hours)
FAX: [58] (212) 907-8199
note: as of September 2008, the Venezuelan Government has expelled the US Ambassador to Venezuela

National holiday:
Independence Day, 5 July (1811)

18 years of age; universal

Government type:
federal republic

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)

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Angelo Rivero SANTOS
chancery: 1099 30th Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
telephone: [1] (202) 342-2214
FAX: [1] (202) 342-6820
consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico)
note: as of September 2008, the US has expelled the Venezuelan ambassador to the US

International organization participation:

Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (167 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms; three seats reserved for the indigenous peoples of Venezuela)
elections: last held 4 December 2005 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - pro-government 167 (MVR 114, PODEMOS 15, PPT 11, indigenous 2, other 25), opposition 0; total seats by party as of 1 January 2008 - pro-government 152 (PSUV 114, PPT 11, indigenous 2, other 25), PODEMOS 15

Legal system:
open, adversarial court system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

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 eight white five-pointed stars centered in the blue band

5 July 1811 (from Spain)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
conventional short form: Venezuela
local long form: Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela
local short form: Venezuela

Political parties and leaders:
A New Time or UNT [Manuel ROSALES]; Christian Democrats or COPEI [Cesar PEREZ Vivas]; Communist Party of Venezuela or PCV [Jeronimo CARRERA]; Democratic Action or AD [Henry RAMOS Allup]; Fatherland for All or PPT [Jose ALBORNOZ]; Justice First [Julio BORGES]; Movement Toward Socialism or MAS [Hector MUJICA]; United Socialist Party of Venezuela or PSUV [Hugo CHAVEZ]; Venezuela Project or PV [Henrique SALAS Romer]; We Can or PODEMOS [Ismael GARCIA]

name: Caracas
geographic coordinates: 10 30 N, 66 56 W
time difference: UTC-4.5 (half an hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

30 December 1999

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Hugo CHAVEZ Frias (since 3 February 1999); Executive Vice President Ramon Alonzo CARRIZALEZ Rengifo (since 4 January 2008); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Hugo CHAVEZ Frias (since 3 February 1999); Executive Vice President Ramon Alonzo CARRIZALEZ Rengifo (since 4 January 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 3 December 2006 (next to be held in December 2012)
note: in 1999, a National Constituent Assembly drafted a new constitution that increased the presidential term to six years; an election was subsequently held on 30 July 2000 under the terms of this constitution
election results: Hugo CHAVEZ Frias reelected president; percent of vote - Hugo CHAVEZ Frias 62.9%, Manuel ROSALES 36.9%

Administrative divisions:
23 states (estados, singular - estado), 1 capital district* (distrito capital), 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

Judicial branch:
Supreme Tribunal of Justice or Tribuna Suprema de Justicia (magistrates are elected by the National Assembly for a single 12-year term)

  Economy Back To Top

Exports - partners:
US 42.7%, Netherlands Antilles 8%, China 3.1% (2007)

Electricity - consumption:
83.84 billion kWh (2006 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
28.5% (31 December 2007)

Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Current account balance:
$48.44 billion (2008 est.)

Debt - external:
$47.99 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Unemployment rate:
8.5% (2008 est.)

Oil - exports:
2.203 million bbl/day (2006 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$14,000 (2008 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):
20.5% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$50.24 billion (31 December 2007)

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$368.6 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$331.8 billion (2008 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
48.2 (2003)

Exchange rates:
bolivars (VEB) per US dollar - 2.147 (2008 est.), 2,147 (2007), 2,147 (2006), 2,089.8 (2005), 1,891.3 (2004)
note: On 1 January 2008 Venezuela revalued its currency with 1000 old bolivares equal to 1 new bolivar

GDP - real growth rate:
5.7% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:
$63.18 billion (31 December 2007)

Labor force:
12.49 million (2008 est.)

Imports - partners:
US 26.6%, Colombia 13.5%, Brazil 9.5%, China 6.7%, Mexico 5.2%, Panama 5% (2007)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
31% (2008 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3.6%
industry: 35.3%
services: 61.1% (2008 est.)

Oil - imports:
0 bbl/day (2006 est.)

$103.5 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:
26.5 billion cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
bolivar (VEB)

Economy - overview:
Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil revenues, which account for roughly 90% of export earnings, about 50% of the federal budget revenues, and around 30% of GDP. A nationwide strike between December 2002 and February 2003 had far-reaching economic consequences - real GDP declined by around 9% in 2002 and 8% in 2003 - but economic output since then has recovered strongly. Fueled by high oil prices, record government spending helped to boost GDP by about 9% in 2006, 8% in 2007, and nearly 6% in 2008. This spending, combined with recent minimum wage hikes and improved access to domestic credit, has created a consumption boom but has come at the cost of higher inflation-roughly 20% in 2007 and more than 30% in 2008. Imports also have jumped significantly. Declining oil prices in the latter part of 2008 are expected to undermine the govenment's ability to continue the high rate of spending. President Hugo CHAVEZ in 2008 continued efforts to increase the government's contol of the economy by nationalizing firms in the cement and steel sectors. In 2007 he nationalized firms in the petroleum, communications, and electricity sectors. In July 2008, CHAVEZ implemented by decree a number of laws that further consolidate and centralize authority over the economy through his plan for "21st Century Socialism."

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials

petroleum, construction materials, food processing, textiles; iron ore mining, steel, aluminum; motor vehicle assembly

Electricity - exports:
542 million kWh (2006 est.)

Population below poverty line:
37.9% (end 2005 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
17.11% (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:
$8.889 billion (31 December 2007)

Electricity - production:
110.7 billion kWh (2007 est.)

$53.44 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:
87.04 billion bbl (1 January 2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 13%
industry: 23%
services: 64% (1997 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
4.708 trillion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$36.36 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Oil - consumption:
738,300 bbl/day (2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$15.81 billion (2008 est.)

Public debt:
17.4% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$44.31 billion (2008 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$8.251 billion (2006)

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 0.7%
highest 10%: 35.2% (2003)

Exports - commodities:
petroleum, bauxite and aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products, basic manufactures

Economic aid - recipient:
$48.66 million (2005)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 31.7%
hydro: 68.3%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
26.5 billion cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $106.2 billion
expenditures: $100.8 billion (2008 est.)

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Oil - production:
2.667 million bbl/day (2007 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
5.72 million (2007)

Telephones - main lines in use:
5.082 million (2007)

4.1 million (1997)

Internet country code:

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 201, FM NA (20 in Caracas), shortwave 11 (1998)

10.75 million (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
23.82 million (2007)

Television broadcast stations:
66 (plus 45 repeaters) (1997)

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; fixed-line teledensity 20 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular teledensity more than 90 per 100 persons
international: country code - 58; submarine cable systems provide connectivity to the Caribbean, Central and South America, and US; 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 (2007)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
16 (2000)

Internet hosts:
145,394 (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

7,100 km
note: Orinoco River (400 km) and Lake de Maracaibo navigable by oceangoing vessels (2008)

extra heavy crude oil 992 km; gas 5,400 km; oil 7,607 km; refined products 1,650 km; unknown (oil/water) 141 km (2007)

total: 682 km
standard gauge: 682 km 1.435-m gauge (2006)

Ports and terminals:
La Guaira, Maracaibo, Puerto Cabello, Punta Cardon

Transportation - note:
the International Maritime Bureau reports the territorial and offshore waters in the Caribbean Sea as a significant risk for piracy and armed robbery against ships; numerous vessels, including commercial shipping and pleasure craft, have been attacked and hijacked both at anchor and while underway; crews have been robbed and stores or cargoes stolen

2 (2007)

Merchant marine:
total: 62
by type: bulk carrier 9, cargo 16, chemical tanker 3, liquefied gas 5, passenger/cargo 10, petroleum tanker 17, refrigerated cargo 2
foreign-owned: 12 (Chile 1, Denmark 1, Greece 3, Mexico 5, Panama 1, Spain 1)
registered in other countries: 12 (Bahamas 1, Panama 10, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1) (2008)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 128
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 10
1,524 to 2,437 m: 34
914 to 1,523 m: 61
under 914 m: 18 (2007)

total: 96,155 km
paved: 32,308 km
unpaved: 63,847 km (2002)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 262
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 15
914 to 1,523 m: 97
under 914 m: 149 (2007)

390 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

Military service age and obligation:
18-30 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; 30-month conscript service obligation - all citizens 18-50 years old are obligated to register for military service (2008)

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 6,647,124
females age 16-49: 6,801,133 (2008 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 5,280,974
females age 16-49: 5,768,814 (2008 est.)

Military branches:
National Armed Forces (Fuerza Armada Nacionale, FAN): Ground Forces or Army (Fuerzas Terrestres or Ejercito), Naval Forces (Fuerzas Navales or Armada; includes Marines, Coast Guard), Air Force (Fuerzas Aereas or Aviacion), Armed Forces of Cooperation or National Guard (Fuerzas Armadas de Cooperacion or Guardia Nacional)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 275,323
female: 274,106 (2008 est.)

Military expenditures:
1.2% of GDP (2005 est.)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

Disputes - international:
claims all of the area west of the Essequibo River in Guyana, preventing any discussion of a maritime boundary; Guyana has expressed its intention to join Barbados in asserting claims before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that Trinidad and Tobago's maritime boundary with Venezuela extends into their waters; dispute with Colombia over maritime boundary and Venezuelan-administered Los Monjes islands near the Gulf of Venezuela; Colombian-organized illegal narcotics and paramilitary activities penetrate Venezuela's shared border region; in 2006, an estimated 139,000 Colombians sought protection in 150 communities along the border in Venezuela; US, France, and the Netherlands recognize Venezuela's granting full effect to Aves Island, thereby claiming a Venezuelan EEZ/continental shelf extending over a large portion of the eastern Caribbean Sea; Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines protest Venezuela's full effect claim

Trafficking in persons:
current situation: Venezuela is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; Venezuelan women and girls are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation, lured from the nation's interior to urban and tourist areas; child prostitution in urban areas and child sex tourism in resort destinations appear to be growing; Venezuelan women and girls are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation to Western Europe, Mexico, and Caribbean destinations
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Venezuela is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List, up from Tier 3, as it showed greater resolve to address trafficking through law enforcement measures and prevention efforts in 2007, although stringent punishment of offenders and victim assistance remain lacking (2008)

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

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