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 from 1999 to 2013, sought to implement his “21st Century Socialism,” which purported to alleviate social ills while at the same time attacking capitalist globalization and existing democratic institutions. His hand-picked successor, President Nicolas Maduro, continues Chavez’s socialist programs. Current concerns include: a weakening of democratic institutions, political polarization, a politicized military, rampant violent crime, overdependence on the petroleum industry with its price fluctuations, foreign exchange controls that discourage private-sector investment, high inflation, a decline in the quality of fundamental houman rights, and widespread scarcity of consumer goods.

Venezuelan Flag

Venezuelan Flag


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:
almost six times the size of Georgia; 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:
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

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: 0.71%
other: 96.44% (2011)

Irrigated land:
10,550 sq km (2008)

Total renewable water resources:
1,233 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 9.06 cu km/yr (23%/4%/74%)
per capita: 358.6 cu m/yr (2008)

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


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People & Society

noun: Venezuelan(s)
adjective: Venezuelan

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

Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects

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

Demographic profile:
Social investment in Venezuela during the CHAVEZ administration reduced poverty from nearly 50 % in 1999 to about 27 % in 2011, increased school enrollment, substantially decreased infant and child mortality, and improved access to potable water and sanitation through social investment. “Missions” dedicated to education, nutrition, healthcare, and sanitation were funded through petroleum revenues. The sustainability of this progress remains questionable, however, as the continuation of these social programs depends on the prosperity of Venezuela’s oil industry. In the long-term, education and health care spending may increase economic growth and reduce income inequality, but rising costs and the staffing of new health care jobs with foreigners are slowing development.
Since CHAVEZ came to power in 1999, more than one million predominantly middle- and upper-class Venezuelans are estimated to have emigrated. The brain drain is attributed to a repressive political system, lack of economic opportunities, steep inflation, a high crime rate, and corruption. Thousands of oil engineers emigrated to Canada, Colombia, and the United States following Chavez’s firing of over 20,000 employees of the state-owned petroleum company during a 2002-2003 oil strike. Additionally, thousands of Venezuelans of European descent have taken up residence in their ancestral homelands. Nevertheless, Venezuela continues to attract immigrants from South America and southern Europe because of its lenient migration policy and the availability of education and health care. Venezuela also has been a fairly accommodating host to more than 200,000 Colombian refugees.

28,868,486 (July 2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46

Age structure:
0-14 years: 28.2% (male 4,143,840/female 3,985,489)
15-24 years: 18.8% (male 2,723,856/female 2,697,672)
25-54 years: 39.6% (male 5,614,922/female 5,818,903)
55-64 years: 5.9% (male 1,030,898/female 1,137,894)
65 years and over: 5.8% (male 755,183/female 959,829) (2014 est.)

Dependency ratios:
total dependency ratio: 52.9 %
youth dependency ratio: 43.2 %
elderly dependency ratio: 9.8 %
potential support ratio: 10.2 (2014 est.)

Median age:
total: 26.9 years
male: 26.1 years
female: 27.6 years (2014 est.)

Population growth rate:
1.42% (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 86

Birth rate:
19.42 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 90

Death rate:
5.27 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 181

Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 83

urban population: 93.5% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 1.7% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas – population:
CARACAS (capital) 3.242 million; Maracaibo 2.31 million; Valencia 1.866 million; Barquisimeto 1.245 million; Maracay 1.115 million; Ciudad Guayana 799,000 (2011)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2014 est.)

Maternal mortality rate:
92 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)
country comparison to the world: 79

Infant mortality rate:
total: 19.33 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 93
male: 22.73 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 15.75 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 74.39 years
country comparison to the world: 111
male: 71.26 years
female: 77.67 years (2014 est.)

Total fertility rate:
2.35 children born/woman (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 90

Health expenditures:
5.2% of GDP (2011)
country comparison to the world: 138

Physicians density:
1.94 physicians/1,000 population (2001)

Hospital bed density:
0.9 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Drinking water source:
urban: 94.3% of population
rural: 75.3% of population
total: 92.9% of population
urban: 5.7% of population
rural: 24.7% of population
total: 7.1% of population (2007 est.)

Sanitation facility access:
urban: 93.6% of population
rural: 56.9% of population
total: 90.9% of population
urban: 6.4% of population
rural: 43.1% of population
total: 9.1% of population (2007 est.)

HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate:
0.6% (2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 65

HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS:
107,900 (2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 43

HIV/AIDS – deaths:
3,800 (2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46

Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria (2013)

Obesity – adult prevalence rate:
30.3% (2008)
country comparison to the world: 26

Children under the age of 5 years underweight:
2.9% (2009)
country comparison to the world: 114

Education expenditures:
6.9% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 22

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95.5%
male: 95.7%
female: 95.4% (2009 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 14 years
13 years
15 years (2008)

Child labor – children ages 5-14:
total number: 404,092
percentage: 8 % (2000 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
total: 17.1%
country comparison to the world: 75
male: 14.3%
female: 22.6% (2012)

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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 29 N, 66 52 W
time difference: UTC-4.5 (a half 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)

many previous; latest adopted 15 December 1999, effective 30 December 1999; amended 2009 (2013)

Legal system:
civil law system based on the Spanish civil code

International law organization participation:
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; state party to the ICCT

18 years of age; universal; not mandatory

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Nicolas MADURO Moros (since 19 April 2013); Executive Vice President Jorge Alberto ARREAZA Montserrat (since 19 April 2013); note – the president is both chief of state and head of government; former Executive Vice President Nicolas MADURO Moros assumed presidential responsibilities after the death of President Hugo CHAVEZ Frias on 5 March 2013 and became Acting President while preparations for elections took place. He won a national election on 14 April 2013 and started a six-year term
head of government: President Nicolas MADURO Moros (since 19 April 2013); Executive Vice President Jorge Alberto ARREAZA Montserrat (since 19 April 2013)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for unlimited reelection); election last held on 14 April 2013; note – this was a special election held following the death of President Hugo CHAVEZ Frias on 5 March 2013; the next scheduled election after this is expected to be held in late 2018 or early 2019 pending official convocation by the country’s electoral body)
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: Nicolas MADURO Moros elected president; percent of vote – Nicolas MADURO Moros 50.61%, Henrique CAPRILES Radonski 49.12%, other 0.24%

Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (165 seats; members elected by popular vote on a proportional basis 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:
highest court(s): Supreme Tribunal of Justice (consists of 32 judges organized into six divisions – constitutional, political administrative, electoral, civil appeals, criminal appeals, and social (mainly agrarian and labor issues)
judge selection and term of office: judges proposed by the Committee of Judicial Postulation (an independent body of organizations dealing with legal issues and of the organs of citizen power) and appointed by the National Assembly; judges serve non-renewable 12-year terms
subordinate courts: Superior or Appeals Courts (Tribunales Superiores); District Tribunals (Tribunales de Distrito); Courts of First Instance (Tribunales de Primera Instancia); Parish Courts (Tribunales de Parroquia); Justices of the Peace (Justicia de Paz) Network

Political parties and leaders:
A New Time or UNT [Omar BARBOZA]
Brave People’s Alliance or ABP [Antonio LEDEZMA]
Christian Democrats or COPEI [Roberto ENRIQUEZ]
Coalition of opposition parties — The Democratic Unity Table or MUD [Ramon Guillermo AVELEDO]
Communist Party of Venezuela or PCV [Oscar FIGUERA]
Democratic Action or AD [Henry RAMOS ALLUP]
Fatherland for All or PPT [Rafael UZCATEGUI]
For Social Democracy or PODEMOS [Ismael GARCIA]
Justice First or PJ [Julio BORGES]
Movement Toward Socialism or MAS [Nicolas SOSA]
Popular Will or VP [Leopoldo LOPEZ]
Progressive Wave or AP [Henri FALCON]
The Radical Cause [Daniel SANTOLO]
United Socialist Party of Venezuela or PSUV [Nicolas MADURO]
Venezuelan Progressive Movement or MPV [Simon CALZADILLA]
Venezuela Project or PV [Henrique SALAS ROMER]

Political pressure groups and leaders:
Bolivarian and Socialist Workers’ Union (a ruling party labor union)
Confederacion Venezolana de Industriales or Coindustria (a conservative business group)
Consejos Comunales (pro-Chavez local cooperatives)
FEDECAMARAS (a conservative business group)
Union of Oil Workers of Venezuela or FUTPV
Venezuelan Confederation of Workers or CTV (opposition-oriented labor organization)
various civil society groups and human rights organizations

International organization participation:

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant)
chancery: 1099 30th Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
telephone: [1] (202) 342-2214
FAX: [1] (202) 342-6820
consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d’Affaires Philip G. LAIDLAW
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, then President Hugo CHAVEZ ordered an eighth star added to the star arc – a decision that sparked much controversy – to conform with the flag proclaimed by Simon Bolivar in 1827 and to represent the province of Guayana

National symbol(s):
troupial (bird)

National anthem:
name: “Gloria al bravo pueblo” (Glory to the Brave People)
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


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Economy – overview:

Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil revenues, which account for roughly 96% of export earnings, about 45% of budget revenues, and around 12% of GDP. Fueled by high oil prices, pre-election government spending helped spur GDP growth in 2012 to 5.6%. Government spending, minimum wage hikes, and improved access to domestic credit created an increase in consumption which combined with supply problems to cause higher inflation – roughly 20% in 2012 and rising to more than 56% in 2013. Former President Hugo Chavez’s efforts to increase the government’s control of the economy by nationalizing firms in the agribusiness, financial, construction, oil, and steel sectors hurt the private investment environment, reduced productive capacity, and slowed non-petroleum exports. In 2013, Venezuela continued to wrestle with housing and electricity crises, and rolling food and goods shortages, resulting from the government’s unorthodox economic policies. The budget deficit for the public sector reached 17% of GDP in 2012 and was trimmed to under 10% of GDP in 2013. The Venezuelan government has maintained a regime of strict currency exchange controls since 2003. Venezuelan law now sanctions a three-tiered exchange rate system, with rates based on the government’s import priorities.

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$407.4 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 34
$403.3 billion (2012 est.)
$381.9 billion (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):
$367.5 billion (2013 est.)

GDP – real growth rate:
1.6% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 156
5.6% (2012 est.)
4.2% (2011 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP):
$13,600 (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 99
$13,700 (2012 est.)
$13,100 (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars

Gross national saving:
23.8% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 58
28.9% of GDP (2012 est.)
30.8% of GDP (2011 est.)

GDP – composition, by end use:
household consumption: 62.3%
government consumption: 13.2%
investment in fixed capital: 17.3%
investment in inventories: 5.7%
exports of goods and services: 25%
imports of goods and services: -23.5%
(2013 est.)

GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 3.7%
industry: 35.5%
services: 60.8% (2013 est.)

Agriculture – products:
corn, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, bananas, vegetables, coffee; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish

agricultural products, livestock, raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, iron and steel products, and fuel

Industrial production growth rate:
1% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 150

Labor force:
14.01 million (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 40

Labor force – by occupation:
agriculture: 7.3%
industry: 21.8%
services: 70.9% (4th quarter, 2011)

Unemployment rate:
7.9% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84
7.8% (2012 est.)

Population below poverty line:
31.6% (2011 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.7%
highest 10%: 32.7% (2006)

Distribution of family income – Gini index:
39 (2011)
country comparison to the world: 67
49.5 (1998)

revenues: $103.4 billion
expenditures: $139.4 billion (2013 est.)

Taxes and other revenues:
28.1% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 105

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
-9.8% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205

Public debt:
34.2% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 109
26.8% of GDP (2012 est.)
note: data cover central government debt, as well as the debt of state-owned oil company PDVSA; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities; the data include some debt issued by subnational entities, as well as intra-governmental debt; intra-governmental debt consists of treasury borrowings from surpluses in the social funds, such as for retirement, medical care, and unemployment; some debt instruments for the social funds are sold at public auctions

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
56.2% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 222
21.1% (2012 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
29.5% (31 December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 3
29.5% (31 December 2009)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
18% (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 32
16.38% (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of narrow money:
$181.4 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 22
$162.7 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of broad money:
$185.6 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39
$166.7 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$176.7 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 42
$160.1 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$25.3 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 78
$5.143 billion (31 December 2011)
$3.991 billion (31 December 2011 est.)

Current account balance:
$3.195 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 34
$11.02 billion (2012 est.)

$91.78 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 41
$97.34 billion (2012 est.)

Exports – commodities:
petroleum and petroleum products, bauxite and aluminum, minerals, chemicals, agricultural products

Exports – partners:
US 39.1%, China 14.3%, India 12%, Netherlands Antilles 7.8%, Cuba 4.6% (2012)

$59.32 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 49
$59.31 billion (2012 est.)

Imports – commodities:
agricultural products, livestock, raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials, medical equipment, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, iron and steel products

Imports – partners:
US 31.7%, China 16.8%, Brazil 9.1%, Colombia 4.8% (2012)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$21.15 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 58
$29.89 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Debt – external:
$74.87 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 53
$75.75 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment – at home:
$49.9 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 55
$47.4 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad:
$21.94 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46
$21.25 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Exchange rates:
bolivars (VEB) per US dollar –
6.048 (2013 est.)
4.289 (2012 est.)
2.5821 (2010 est.)
2.147 (2009)
2.147 (2008)

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