The Venezuela reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Venezuela

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The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Spanish: República Bolivariana de Venezuela, "little Venice") is a country in northern South America 1. It borders the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Guyana to the east, Brazil to the south, and Colombia to the west. Off the Venezuelan coast are also found the Caribbean states of Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles and Trinidad and Tobago.

República Bolivariana
de Venezuela              
125px
Image:Venezuela_coa.png
(In Detail)
National motto: None
image:LocationVenezuela.png
Official language Spanish
Capital Caracas
PresidentHugo Chávez
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 32nd
912,050 km²
0.3%
Population
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 43rd
24,287,670


27/km²

Independence
 - Declared
 - Recognised
From Spain
July 5, 1811
1821
Currency Venezuelan bolívar
Time zone UTC -4
National anthem Gloria al bravo pueblo
Internet TLD .ve
Calling Code58

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 States
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 Footnotes
10 External links

History

Main article: History of Venezuela

Venezuela was the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in South America in 1522, and most of the territory eventually became part of the viceroyalty of New Granada. Parts of what is now eastern Venezuela became New Andalusia. After several unsuccessful uprisings, the country achieved independence from Spain in 1821 under the leadership of its most famous son, Simón Bolívar. Venezuela, along with what are now Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador, was part of the Republic of Greater Colombia (Gran Colombia) until 1830, when Venezuela separated and became a sovereign republic.

Much of Venezuela's 19th and early 20th century history was characterized by periods of political instability, dictatorial rule, and revolutionary turbulence. Following the military's withdrawal from direct involvement in national politics in 1958, Venezuela has enjoyed an unbroken tradition of democratic civilian rule. Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998 with 56% of the vote and re-elected in 2000 with 59%. However in 2002 the Chávez presidency saw a failed attempted coup d'état after riots and protests shook the capital of the country. The Venezuelan military announced Chávez's resignation on television, and invited a business leader to become interim president under still-mysterious circumstances. Within hours, the new president abolished the National Assembly and repealed the current constitution, and the military withdrew its support. The Venezuelan government claims that the coup occurred with the assistance and encouragement of the US government. Loyalist military officials restored Chávez to power in less than 48 hours.

The U.S. has supplied funds to Cofavic and Sumate among other opposition organisations, for human rights workshops, publications and other political activities in 2003, which Chávez insists is an attempt to destabilize the leftist government. A recent presidential recall petition was ruled invalid leading to a week of rioting in Caracas, by U.S.-supported political organisations. Liliana Ortega, a prominent human rights advocate in Venezuela has been labeled an enemy of the state. The Organization of American States has become involved in the debate over alleged censorship and human rights abuses. Former U.S. Ambassador John Maisto claims that Chávez is similar to Fidel Castro in the numerous reports by opposition groups of disappearances and the use of torture. All political parties and all the private mass media enjoy complete freedom of expression and action, but the government is debating severe restrictions on the content of private broadcast media, uncurbed until now to the point of bitter slandering and blackmailing. Rallies of the opposition have considerably dwindled in mass support since the failed business strike that ended in January 2003, in part because a widespread popular resistance. The government is believed to provide transportation and meals to its supporters to appear at rallies in support of the government. Many social programs by the government has assured popular support, like the reduction to near 0 the illiterate rate, the prosecution of high school and college for peoplo who never had right to that level of education, distribution of food at low prices, credits, etc. The middle classes feel menaced by the incensed rhetoric of the president. So far there has been no action against private property and foreign investors have not stopped their activities.

In 2004, the opposition organized a petition drive to call a vote on a referendum which would remove Chavez from office, and claim to have gathered over 3.4 million signatures, about 1 million more than required. The signature drive was supervised by the Organization of American States and by the Carter Center, and included a number of controls against fraud including fingerprints and bar coding of each signature page. However, the government has rejected many of the signatures for alleged irregularities. The 'Sala Electoral' (Electoral Chamber) of the Supreme Court ordered that the signatures be validated and a date be set for the referendum, but the National Electoral Council (CNE) appealed to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court which is dominated by Chávez loyalists. In the meantime, there are widespread reports by the opposition media of people being fired from government jobs and being denied passports and other government services, because they signed the petition ("Reafirmazo"). During anti-government protests in February and March 2004, nine persons were killed, many were arrested, and the government is accused by the opposition of torture and unlawful detention of many others. There has been no formal accusation in the legal organisations of these alleged abuses.

During the spring of 2004, the CNE established a procedure allowing the citizens whose recall signatures had been rejected to affirm or deny them. This process, called the "Reparo", was successful in bringing the number of signatures over the constitutionally required threshold. It has been announced that a recall referendum will be held on August 15, 2004. Opinion polls suggest that the contest will be close.

See also: Discoverer of the Americas

Politics

Main article: Politics of Venezuela

The Venezuelan president is elected by a plurality vote with direct and universal suffrage and functions as both head of state and head of government. The term of office is 6 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 165 deputies, of which three are reserved for indigenous peoples, serve 5-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 12-year term. The Consejo Nacional Electoral is in charge of electoral processes; it is formed by five main directors elected by the National Assembly.

See also

States

Main article:
States of Venezuela

Venezuela is subdivided into 23 states (estados), one federal district (distrito federal) and one federal dependency (dependencia federal), marked by a *:

Map of Venezuela

Geography

Main article:
Geography of Venezuela

Venezuela is home to a wide variety of landscapes, such as the northeasternmost extensions of the Andes mountains in the northwest and along the northern Caribbean coast, of which the highest point is the Pico Bolivar at 5,007 m. Also found in the northwest are the lowlands around Lake Maracaibo and the Gulf of Venezuela. The centre of the country is characterised by extensive plains known as the llanos that stretch from the Colombian border to the river delta of the Orinoco east. To the south are found the dissected Guiana Highlands, home to Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall.

The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, though more moderate in the highlands. The capital, Caracas is also the country's largest city. Other major cities include Maracaibo, Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracay, and Ciudad Guayana.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Venezuela

The Venezuelan economy shifted after the First World War from a primarily agricultural orientation to an economy centered on petroleum production and export, which continues to dominate, accounting for roughly a third of GDP, around 80% of export earnings, and more than half of government operating revenues. Venezuelan officials estimate that GDP grew by 2.7% in 2001. A strong rebound in international oil prices fueled the recovery from the steep recession in 1999.

Nevertheless, a relatively weak non-oil sector and capital flight - and a temporary fall in oil prices - undercut the recovery. In early 2002, in the middle of a strike arranged by the political opposition, the government changed the exchange rate regime from a crawling peg to a free floating exchange rate, causing the Bolivar to depreciate significantly.

President Chavez has begun channeling oil revenues from the government owned oil company PDVSA to finance social programs in 2003. Opponents claim that it is undermining the independent status of the banks and oil company, which is clearly an attempt to improve his public support. Several economists from the opposition parties say that his actions will cause inflation and loss of foreign investor confidence. On the other hand, these programs are wildly popular among Venezuela's millions of poor people.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Venezuela

The Venezuelan people comprise a rich combination of heritages. The historically present Amerindians, Spanish colonists and Africans were joined by Italians, Portuguese, Arabs, Germans, and others from neighbouring countries in South America during waves of immigration in the 20th century. About 85% of the population live in urban areas in the northern portion of the country. While almost half of Venezuela's land area lies south of the Orinoco river, this region contains only 5% of the population.

The national and official language is Spanish, but numerous indigenous dialects also exist, as do dialects introduced by immigrants. Nominally 96% of the population is Roman Catholic; other denominations, primarily Protestant, make up the remainder.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Venezuela

Miscellaneous topics

Footnotes

1. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has been the full official title of the state since the adoption of the 1999 constitution, when the state was renamed in honour of
Simón Bolívar. Prior to that the state was known as the Republic of Venezuela. Not many Venezuelans agrees with this change in the country's name, because of political interests.

2. US Secretary of State Colin Powell has rejected these allegations as unfounded (Powel Niega Participacion en el Golpe, May 6, 2002. El Universal).

External links


Countries in South America
Argentina | Bolivia | Brazil | Chile | Colombia | Ecuador | Guyana | Paraguay | Peru | Suriname | Uruguay | Venezuela
Dependencies: Falkland Islands | French Guiana

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
Algeria | Indonesia | Iran | Iraq | Kuwait | Libya | Nigeria | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | United Arab Emirates | Venezuela

Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom)
Antigua and Barbuda | The Bahamas¹ | Barbados | Belize | Dominica | Grenada | Guyana | Haiti | Jamaica | Montserrat | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Suriname | Trinidad and Tobago
Associate members: British Virgin Islands | Turks and Caicos Islands
Observer status: Anguilla | Aruba | Bermuda | Cayman Islands | Colombia | Dominican Republic | Mexico | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Venezuela
¹ A member of the community but not the common market.

Logo of the OAS
Organization of American States (OAS)
Antigua and Barbuda | Argentina | Bahamas | Barbados | Belize | Bolivia | Brazil | Canada | Chile | Colombia | Costa Rica | Cuba | Dominica | Dominican Republic | Ecuador | El Salvador | Grenada | Guatemala | Guyana | Haiti | Honduras | Jamaica | Mexico | Nicaragua | Panama | Paraguay | Peru | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | St. Kitts and Nevis | Suriname | Trinidad and Tobago | United States | Uruguay | Venezuela