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Venezuela (South America)

Introduction ::Venezuela


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, seeked to implement his "21st Century Socialism," which purports to alleviate social ills while at the same time attacking capitalist globalization and existing democratic institutions. Current concerns include: a weakening of democratic institutions, political polarization, a politicized military, drug-related violence along the Colombian border, overdependence on the petroleum industry with its price fluctuations, and irresponsible mining operations that are endangering the rain forest and indigenous peoples.

Geography ::Venezuela

View Larger Map


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 country comparison to the world: 33 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

Center Simon Bolivar Twin Towers


2,800 km

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


tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands

Indian Weaving


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 5,007 m

Natural resources:

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

Land use:

arable land: 2.85%

permanent crops: 0.88%

other: 96.27% (2005)

Irrigated land:

5,750 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources:

1,233.2 cu km (2000)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):

total: 8.37 cu km/yr (6%/7%/47%)

per capita: 313 cu m/yr (2000)

Caracas Venezuela Multiview Postcard

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, 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

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


27,223,228 (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 45

Age structure:

0-14 years: 30.5% (male 4,157,194/female 4,022,595)

15-64 years: 64.3% (male 8,480,872/female 8,754,620)

65 years and over: 5.2% (male 620,657/female 778,905) (2010 est.)

Median age:

total: 25.8 years

male: 25.1 years

female: 26.5 years (2010 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.515% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 81

Birth rate:

20.29 births/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 91

Death rate:

5.14 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 182

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 101


urban population: 93% of total population (2008)

rate of urbanization: 2% annual rate of change (2005-10 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: 0.79 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 21.07 deaths/1,000 live births country comparison to the world: 96 male: 24.6 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 17.37 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 73.77 years country comparison to the world: 109 male: 70.69 years

female: 77 years (2010 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.45 children born/woman (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 93

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.7%; note - no country specific models provided (2001 est.) country comparison to the world: 63

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

110,000 (1999 est.) country comparison to the world: 45

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

4,100 (2003 est.) country comparison to the world: 49

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: high

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria (2009)


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%

male: 93.3%

female: 92.7% (2001 census)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 14 years

male: 13 years

female: 15 years (2008)

Education expenditures:

3.7% of GDP (2007) country comparison to the world: 122

Government ::Venezuela

Country name:

conventional long form: Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

conventional short form: Venezuela

local long form: Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela

local short form: Venezuela

Government type:

federal republic


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)

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 (Federal Dependencies)**, Distrito Capital (Capital District)*, 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:

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); Executive Vice President Elias JAUA Milano (since 26 January 2010); 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 Elias JAUA Milano (since 26 January 2010)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president (For more information visit the World Leaders website ) elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for unlimited reelection); election last held on 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; in 2009, a national referendum approved the elimination of term limits on all elected officials, including the presidency

election results: Hugo CHAVEZ Frias reelected president; percent of vote - Hugo CHAVEZ Frias 62.9%, Manuel ROSALES 36.9%

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)

elections: last held on 26 September 2010 (next to be held in 2015)

election results: percent of vote by party - pro-government 48.9%, opposition coalition 47.9%, other 3.2%; seats by party - pro-government 98, opposition 65, other 2

Judicial branch:

Supreme Tribunal of Justice or Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (32 magistrates are elected by the National Assembly for a single 12-year term)

Political parties and leaders:

A New Time or UNT [Omar BARBOZA]; Brave People's Alliance or ABP
[Oscar PEREZ]; Christian Democrats or COPEI [Luis Ignacio PLANAS];
Communist Party of Venezuela or PCV [Oscar FIGUERA]; Democratic
Action or AD [Henry RAMOS Allup]; Fatherland for All or PPT [Jose
ALBORNOZ]; For Social Democracy or PODEMOS [Ramon MARTINEZ]; Justice
First [Julio BORGES]; Movement Toward Socialism or MAS [Felipe
MUJICA]; United Socialist Party of Venezuela or PSUV [Hugo CHAVEZ];
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:

Caricom (observer), CDB, FAO, G-15, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD,
(observer), Mercosur (associate), MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW,

Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Bernardo ALVAREZ Herrera

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)

Diplomatic representation from the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant)

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

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; the flag retains the three equal horizontal bands and three main colors of the banner of Gran Colombia, the South American republic that broke up in 1830; yellow is interpreted as standing for the riches of the land, blue for the courage of its people, and red for the blood shed in attaining independence; the seven stars on the original flag represented the seven provinces in Venezuela that united in the war of independence; in 2006, President Hugo CHAVEZ ordered an eighth star added to the star arc - a decision that sparked much controversy

National anthem:

name: "Gloria al bravo pueblo" (Glory to the Brave Nation)

lyrics/music: Vicente SALIAS/Juan Jose LANDAETA

note: adopted 1881; the lyrics were written in 1810, the music some years later; both SALIAS and LANDAETA were executed in 1814 during Venezuela's struggle for independence

Economy ::Venezuela

Economy - overview:

Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil revenues, which account for roughly 95% of export earnings, about 55% 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 10% in 2006, 8% in 2007, and nearly 5% in 2008, before a sharp drop in oil prices caused a contraction in 2009-10. 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 32% in 2008, and slowing only slightly to 30% in 2010, despite the lengthy downturn. Imports also jumped significantly before the recession of 2009. President Hugo CHAVEZ's continued efforts to increase the government's control of the economy by nationalizing firms in the agribusiness, financial, construction, oil, and steel sectors have hurt the private investment environment, reduced productive capacity, and slowed non-petroleum exports. In the first half of 2010 Venezuela faced the prospect of lengthy nationwide blackouts when its main hydroelectric power plant - which provides more than 35% of the country's electricity - nearly shut down. In January, 2010, CHAVEZ announced a dual exchange rate system for the bolivar and closed the unofficial foreign exchange market - the "parallel" market - in an effort to stem inflation and slow the currency's depreciation. The foreign exchange system offers a 2.6 bolivar per dollar rate for imports of essentials, including food, medicine, and industrial machinery, and a 4.3 bolivar per dollar rate for imports of other products, including cars and telephones.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$344.2 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 35 $354.1 billion (2009 est.)

$366.2 billion (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$285.2 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

-2.8% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 207 -3.3% (2009 est.)

4.8% (2008 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$12,600 (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 91 $13,200 (2009 est.)

$13,900 (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 4.1%

industry: 34.9%

services: 61.1% (2010 est.)

Labor force:

13.3 million (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 40

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 13%

industry: 23%

services: 64% (1997 est.)

Unemployment rate:

12.1% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 130 7.9% (2009 est.)

Population below poverty line:

37.9% (yearend 2005 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 1.7%

highest 10%: 32.7% (2006)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

41 (2009) country comparison to the world: 57 49.5 (1998)

Investment (gross fixed):

16.4% of GDP (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 122

Public debt:

25.5% of GDP (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 98 18% of GDP (2009 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

29.8% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 224 27.1% (2009 est.)

Central bank discount rate:

29.5% (31 December 2009) country comparison to the world: 3 33.5% (31 December 2008)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:

19.89% (31 December 2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 12 22.37% (31 December 2008 est.)

Stock of narrow money:

$69.36 billion (31 December 2010 est) country comparison to the world: 37 $93.19 billion (31 December 2009 est)

Stock of broad money:

$78.11 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 58 $107 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:

$54.22 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 62 $75.87 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:

$NA (31 December 2008)

$NA (31 December 2007)

$8.251 billion (31 December 2006)

Agriculture - products:

corn, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, bananas, vegetables, coffee; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish


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

Industrial production growth rate:

-8% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 166

Electricity - production:

113.3 billion kWh (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 29

Electricity - consumption:

83.02 billion kWh (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 34

Electricity - exports:

540 million kWh (2007 est.)

Electricity - imports:

1.651 billion kWh (2007 est.)

Oil - production:

2.472 million bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 11

Oil - consumption:

740,000 bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 23

Oil - exports:

2.182 million bbl/day (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 8

Oil - imports:

0 bbl/day (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 206

Oil - proved reserves:

97.77 billion bbl (1 January 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 7

Natural gas - production:

23.06 billion cu m (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 29

Natural gas - consumption:

24.86 billion cu m (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 31

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 102

Natural gas - imports:

1.8 billion cu m (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 48

Natural gas - proved reserves:

4.983 trillion cu m (1 January 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 9

Current account balance:

$22.07 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 15 $8.561 billion (2009 est.)


$64.87 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 44 $57.6 billion (2009 est.)

Exports - commodities:

petroleum, bauxite and aluminum, minerals, chemicals, agricultural products, basic manufactures

Exports - partners:

US 35.18%, Netherlands Antilles 8.56%

note: excludes oil exports; Venezuela last published petroleum figures by country in 2008 (2009)


$31.37 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 57 $38.44 billion (2009 est.)

Imports - commodities:

agricultural products, raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials

Imports - partners:

US 23.66%, Colombia 14.43%, Brazil 9.13%, China 8.44%, Mexico 5.47% (2009)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$29.49 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 35 $35 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - external:

$55.61 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 54 $53.58 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:

$37.71 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 58 $41.21 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:

$20.97 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 39 $17.67 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange rates:

bolivars (VEB) per US dollar - 4.3039 (2010), 2.1522 (2009), 2.147 (2008), 2,147 (2007), 2,147 (2006)

Communications ::Venezuela

Telephones - main lines in use:

6.867 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 28

Telephones - mobile cellular:

28.124 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 32

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; combined fixed and mobile-cellular telephone subscribership 130 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 (2009)

Broadcast media:

government supervises a mixture of state-run and private broadcast media; 1 state-run television network, 4 privately-owned TV networks, and a government-backed pan-American channel; state-run radio network includes 15 stations; large number of private broadcast radio stations (2007)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

238,665 (2010) country comparison to the world: 64

Internet users:

8.918 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 32

Transportation ::Venezuela


409 (2010) country comparison to the world: 20

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 129

over 3,047 m: 5

2,438 to 3,047 m: 10

1,524 to 2,437 m: 34

914 to 1,523 m: 63

under 914 m: 17 (2010)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 280

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 16

914 to 1,523 m: 91

under 914 m: 172 (2010)


4 (2010)


extra heavy crude 980 km; gas 5,258 km; oil 6,695 km; refined products 1,484 km; unknown 141 km (2009)


total: 806 km country comparison to the world: 101 standard gauge: 806 km 1.435-m gauge (2008)


total: 96,155 km country comparison to the world: 47 paved: 32,308 km

unpaved: 63,847 km (2002)


7,100 km country comparison to the world: 21 note: Orinoco River (400 km) and Lake de Maracaibo navigable by oceangoing vessels (2010)

Merchant marine:

total: 59 country comparison to the world: 66 by type: bulk carrier 5, cargo 15, chemical tanker 5, liquefied gas 5, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 12, petroleum tanker 16

foreign-owned: 10 (Denmark 1, Estonia 1, Germany 1, Greece 4, Mexico 1, Norway 1, Spain 1)

registered in other countries: 9 (Panama 8, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1) (2010)

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

Military ::Venezuela

Military branches:

National Bolivarian Armed Forces (Fuerza Armada Nacional
Bolivariana, FANB): Bolivarian Army (Ejercito Bolivariano, EB),
Bolivarian Navy (Armada Bolivariana, AB); includes Naval Infantry,
Coast Guard, Naval Aviation), Bolivarian Military Aviation (Aviacion
Militar Bolivariana, AMB), Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia
Nacional Bolivaria, GNB), Bolivarian Militia (Milicia Bolivariana,
MB) (2010)

Military service age and obligation:

18-30 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; 30-month conscript service obligation; all citizens of military service age (18-60 years old) are obligated to register for military service (2010)

Manpower available for military service:

males age 16-49: 6,891,648

females age 16-49: 7,047,565 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:

males age 16-49: 5,504,152

females age 16-49: 5,976,339 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:

male: 276,612

female: 273,819 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures:

1.2% of GDP (2005 est.) country comparison to the world: 123

Transnational Issues ::Venezuela

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


Hellenica World