OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Venezuela
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Federal Multiparty Republic
AREA: 912,050 Sq Km (352,143 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION: 24,024,500
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Venezuela is located on the northeast
coast of South America. It is bound by the Caribbean Sea
to the north, Brazil to the south, Guyana to the east and
Colombia to the southwest and west. The country can be divided
into four distinct geographical regions. (1.) The Andes
and adjacent hill country in the northwest. (2.) The north
coastal zone of the mountains bordering the Caribbean Sea
and Lake Maracaibo, which is the largest lake in South America.
(3.) The plains or Llanos which extend south and east from
the mountains to the Orinoco River. (4.) The Guyana Highlands
which is a vast area of high plateaux and plains that runs
south and east of the Orinoco River. This region also contains
the world's highest waterfall, the Angel Falls. Major Cities
(pop. est.); Caracas 1,822,000, Maracaibo 1,250,000, Valencia
904,000, Barquisimeto 625,000, Maracay 538,600, Petare 532,000
(1990). Land Use; forested 34%, pastures 20%, agricultural-cultivated
5%, other 41% (1993).
CLIMATE: Venezuela has a tropical climate influenced by altitude.
The country has four climatic zones. (1.) The Tierra Caliente comprising
the coastal plains, valleys and central prairies with an elevation less
than 800 metres (2,625 feet) and temperatures averaging 25 to 35 degrees
Celsius (76 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit). (2.) The Tierra Templada which comprises
the lower mountain slopes and plateaux between 800 metres and 2,000 metres
(2,625 to 6,562 feet) with temperatures averaging 10 degrees Celsius to
25 degrees Celsius (50 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit). (3.) The Tierra Fria
a sub-alpine zone of the mountains from 2,000 to 3,000 metres (6,562 to
9,843 feet) with average temperatures below 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees
Fahrenheit) (4.) The Paramos above the timberline which has an average
temperature seldom above 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). The
wet season is from May to November with an average annual precipitation
varying from 1,400 mm (55 inches) in the Andes to 280 mm (11 inches) on
the coast. Average temperature ranges in Caracas are from 24 degrees Celsius
(75 degrees Fahrenheit) to 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit) all
PEOPLE: The principal ethnic majority are the Mestizos who are
of mixed AmerIndian and Spanish descent and account for 69% of the population
while Whites account for 20%, Black Africans for 9% and AmerIndians for
2%. The AmerIndians are divided into at least 40 groups and are primarily
concentrated in the Amazon territory.
DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 22 persons per sq km (56
persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 84.0% urban, 16.0% rural (1990).
Sex Distribution; 49.7% male, 50.3% female (1990). Life Expectancy at Birth;
67.0 years male, 73.3 years female (1990). Age Breakdown; 38% under 15,
28% 15 to 29, 19% 30 to 44, 9% 45 to 59, 5% 60 to 74, 1% 75 and over (1990).
Birth Rate; 30.4 per 1,000 (1991). Death Rate; 4.5 per 1,000 (1991). Increase
Rate; 25.9 per 1,000 (1991). Infant Mortality Rate; 25.9 per 1,000 live
RELIGIONS: Mostly Christians with nearly 92% of the population
Roman Catholic while 2% are Protestant. The remainder consists of a small
number of Jews and AmerIndians who follow local native tribal beliefs.
LANGUAGES: The official language is Spanish which is spoken by
virtually the entire population except for some isolated AmerIndian groups.
EDUCATION: Aged 10 or over and having attained: no formal schooling
9.5%, primary 45.7%, secondary 35.9%, higher 8.9% (1990). Literacy; literate
population aged 15 or over 13,371,743 or 92.2% (1990).
MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: In 1948 Romulo Gallegos of the
Democratic Action Party (AD) was elected President, although he was ousted
10 months later. Three military leaders ruled the country for the following
two years and in 1950 Marcos Perez Jimenez became dictator of the military
government. In Jan. 1958 after a general strike and escalating civil unrest,
Perez was deposed and a former President, Romulo Betancourt was returned
to office after elections. In 1963 he was succeeded by another AD member,
Raul Leoni and in 1968 the Social Christian Party (COPEI) under Rafael
Caldera Rodriguez won the presidential elections. In 1973 Carlos Andrez
Perez of the AD was elected President and in Jan. 1976 his government nationalized
the oil industry. In 1978 Luis Herrera Campins of COPEI was elected President
and was succeeded by Jaime Lusinchi of the AD in 1983. Lusinchi's government
introduced economic austerity policies, wage freezes and abolished fuel
subsidies which caused unemployment and inflation to escalate. As a result
student and union unrest also escalated. In Dec. 1988 Carlos Andrez Perez
of the AD was elected President and immediately restructured the economy
towards a genuine free market economy. In 1989 serious riots and looting
broke out in protest to economic conditions and the introduction of further
austerity policies. In Feb. 1990 the Supreme Court revoked arrest orders
for 10 former government officials allegedly involved in a large scale
exchange rate corruption. In Sept. 1990 Pres. Perez promised to establish
a reserve in the Amazon for the threatened Yanomamo Indians. In 1991 the
rift between Pres. Perez and the AD widened with a major cabinet reshuffle
resulting in July. In the same month Pres. Perez restored the "economic
guarantees" provisions of the constitution and abandoned the president's
emergency powers to conduct economic policy which had been used for almost
30 years. Also in 1991 the Venezuelan Investment Fund (FIV) announced that
the privatization process of state enterprises would be speed up and announced
that it expected to raise USD $3.6 billion over the next five years. On
Feb. 4, 1992 Pres. Perez announced that an attempted coup, led by Lieut.
Col. Hugo Chavez Frias, had been foiled. Sporadic fighting continued between
the military groups until the government gained control and Frias surrendered
the next day. In total 133 officers thought to be members of the Bolivarist
Revolutionary Movement (MRB) were arrested for their involvement. Following
the uprising and pressure from opposition parties the government announced
plans to hold an inquiry into corruption in the military, and promised
an increase in the minimum wage and to lower interest rates. On Feb. 25,
1992 a major cabinet reshuffle took place and in June further changes resulted
in Gen. Fernando Ochoa Antich, the first military officer to hold a post
in the civilian government, being appointed foreign minister. On Nov. 27,
1992 units from the air force along with other leftist groups attempted
another coup. Air attacks on the President's office were launched and the
rebels captured two air bases. Following 12 hours of fighting the rebels
were defeated. In Dec. 1992 some 240 military and civilians were arrested
for their involvement in the coup which cost some 170 lives. In 1993 protests
against Pres. Perez and his government escalated. In May 1993 Pres. Perez
was impeached following allegations of corruption involving the embezzlement
of $17.2 million of secret government funds and the ruling of the Supreme
court that there was sufficient evidence for Pres. Perez to be tried. In
June 1993 the Congress appointed Ramon Jose Velasquez as interim President.
In July 1993 there was a series of bombings in the capital. In Dec. 1993
elections were won by former president Rafael Caldera as head of a coalition
called the National Convergence (CN). Pres. Caldera announced plans to
modify his predecessor's free market reforms.
CURRENCY: The official currency is the Bolivar (B) divided into
ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $58,916,000,000 (1993).
Public Debt; USD $26,856,000,000 (1993). Imports; B 997,499,600,000 (1993).
Exports; B 1,306,300,000,000 (1993). Tourism Receipts; USD $432,000,000
(1992). Balance of Trade; B 1,159,400,000,000 (1994). Economically Active
Population; 7,546,200 or 36.3% of total population (1993). Unemployed;
MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are the USA,
Canada, Italy, Spain and Germany.
MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Bauxite, Coal, Cocoa, Coffee, Gold, Iron
Ore, Livestock, Maize, Manganese, Oil, Rice, Vegetables.
MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Aluminum, Chemicals, Cement, Food Processing,
Petroleum Products, Ships, Steel, Textiles, Transport Equipment.
MAIN EXPORTS: Aluminium, Crude Oil and Products, Coffee, Cocoa,
Iron Ore, Steel.
TRANSPORT: Railroads; route length 363 km (226 mi) (1989), passenger-km
37,626,700 (23,380,140 passenger-mi) (1989), cargo ton-km 38,627,400 (26,455,906
short ton-mi) (1989). Roads; length 77,500 km (48,156 mi) (1989). Vehicles;
cars 1,615,000 (1989), trucks and buses 459,000 (1989). Merchant Marine;
vessels 273 (1990), deadweight tonnage 1,383,493 (1990). Air Transport;
passenger-km 6,444,000,000 (4,004,000,000 passenger-mi) (1989), cargo ton-km
166,188,000 (113,822,000 short ton-mi) (1989).
COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 82 with a total circulation
of 4,200,000 (1992). Radio; receivers 8,300,000 (1994). Television; receivers
3,700,000 (1994). Telephones; lines 2,082,800 (1993).
MILITARY: 79,000 (1994) total active duty personnel with 72.1%
army, 19.0% navy and 8.9% air force while military expenditure accounts
for 1.8% (1993) of the Gross National Product (GNP).
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