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      SOUTH AMERICA
      You are here: South America > Venezuela

      Venezuela

      General background information

      General background information including politics, international relations and economic overview.

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      Mount Fuji
      Caracas

      República Bolivariana de Venezuela
      Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

      Flag of Venezuela

      Coat of arms of Venezuela

      Flag

      Coat of arms

      Location of Venezuela

      Capital  

      Caracas
      10°30'N 66°58'W

      Largest city  

      Caracas

      Official language  

      Spanish

      Government  

      Federal Republic

       - President  

      Hugo Chávez Frías

      Area

       Total  

      916,445 km²
      353,841 sq mi

       Water (%)  

      0.3

      Population

       July 2007 estimate  

      27,483,200

       2001 census  

      23,054,210

       Density  

      30/km²
      77/sq mi

      GDP (PPP)  

      2006 estimate

       Total  

      $176.4 billion

       Per capita  

      $6,900

      Human Development Index  (2003)  

      0.784 (medium) 

      Currency  

      Venezuelan bolívar (VEB)
      1 Bolivar = 100 centimos

      Hours ahead (+) or behind (-) SA:  

      -6

      Internet TLD  

      .ve

      Calling code  

      +58

      ISO code  

      VE

       

      Background

      VenezuelaSpanish:Venezuelaofficially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a country on the northern coast of South America. Comprising a continental mainland and numerous islands in the Caribbean Sea, Venezuela borders Guyana to the east, Brazil to the south, and Colombia to the west. Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Curaçao, Bonaire, Aruba, and the Leeward Antilles lie just north of the Venezuelan coast.

      A former Spanish colony, Venezuela is a federal republic. Historically, Venezuela has had territorial disputes with Guyana, largely concerning the Essequibo area, and with Colombia concerning the Gulf of Venezuela. Today, Venezuela is known widely for its petroleum industry, the environmental diversity of its territory, and its natural features. Christopher Columbus, upon seeing its eastern coast in 1498, referred to Venezuela as "Tierra de Gracia" ("Land of Grace"), which has become the country’s nickname.

      Venezuela is among the most urbanized countries in Latin America; the vast majority of Venezuelans live in the cities of the north, especially in the largest metropolis, Caracas. Other major cities include Maracaibo, Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracay, and Ciudad Guaya

      Politics

      The Venezuelan president is elected by vote, with direct and universal suffrage, and functions as both head of state and head of government. The term of office is six years, and a president may be re-elected to a single consecutive term. 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.

      The unicameral Venezuelan parliament is the National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional. 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 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.

      Economic overview

      The petroleum sector dominates Venezuela's mixed economy, accounting for approximately a third of the GDP, around 80% of export earnings, and more than half of government revenues. The country's main petroleum deposits are located around and beneath the large fresh-water Lake Maracaibo connected to the Gulf of Venezuela from the north by a tidal channel and fed by the Catatumbo, Santa Ana and Chama rivers. Oil tankers enter the lake through the tidal channel which was dredged in 1956 to accommodate the ships.

      The oil sector operates through the government-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which among other things owns the US-based distributor CITGO and its more than 14,000 retail gasoline outlets. Venezuela is the United States' largest foreign supplier of oil.

      As of 2007, 37% of the population lives in poverty; the unemployment rate stands at 8.4%.

      Venezuela is also highly dependent on its agricultural sector. Sectors with major potential for export-led growth are production of both coffee and cocoa crops. At one time, Venezuela ranked close to Colombia in coffee production, but in the 1960s and 1970s, as petroleum temporarily turned Venezuela into the richest country in South America, coffee was relegated to the economic back burner. Today, Venezuela produces less than 1% of the world's coffee, most of it consumed by the domestic market. However, Venezuelan coffees are again entering the North American specialty markets. Venezuela's cocoa industry has decayed since the days of Spanish colonialism, when African slaves worked on cocoa estates. The focus of cocoa cultivation has long since moved to tropical West Africa. In recent years, there has been an attempt to resuscitate this industry, as its rare variety of cacao, known as Chuao, is considered the finest and most aromatic in the world and is used in certain single-origin chocolates. The largest Venezuelan fine chocolate producer is El Rey, though some companies such as Savoy (Nestlé) also manufacture chocolate from Venezuelan cacao and export it to Europe.

      Venezuela is one of the five founding members of OPEC, the international oil cartel. Through the initiative of Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, OPEC was proposed in 1960 as a response to low domestic and international oil prices. Since 2005, Venezuela has been a member of Mercosur, joining Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay; it has yet to gain voting rights. Venezuela is also a member of the South American Community of Nations (SACN).

      This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Metasyntactic variable".

       

       

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