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Venezuela, officially known as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Spanish: República Bolivariana de Venezuela) is the northernmost country in South America and part of Caribbean South America. 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 Venezuela1
Flag of Venezuela Coat of Arms of Venezuela
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
Motto: none 2
National Anthem: Gloria al Bravo Pueblo
Location of Venezuela
Capital Caracas
10°30′ N 66°58′ W
Largest city Caracas
Official language Spanish
Government Federal republic
Hugo Chávez
From Spain
July 5, 1811
June 24, 1821
 • Total
 • Water (%)
916,445 km² (32nd)
 • July 2005 est.
 • 2001 census
 • Density
25.375.281 (46th)
27/km² (145th)
 • Total
 • Per capita
2004 estimate
$ 153,331 million (52nd)
$ 6,200 (98th)
Currency Venezuelan bolívar (Bs.) (VEB)
Time zone UTC -4
Internet TLD .ve
Calling code +58
Note 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.

Note 2: Historical: Dios y Federación (English: God and Federation)

A former Spanish colony, Venezuela is a Federal Republic. Culturally and geographically it is the most Caribbean country of South America, having in its possession over 600 islands in the aforementioned sea. Historically, Venezuela has had territorial disputes with Guyana, largely concerning the Essequibo area. This issue is not yet resolved. To this day, Venezuela is known for its petroleum industry, the friendly temperment of its inhabitants, the environmental diversity of its territory, and its sheer natural beauty. It has been claimed that Christopher Columbus was so enthralled by Venezuela's landscape, when arriving to its coast in 1498, that he referred to the land as Tierra de Gracia (Land of Grace), which has become the country’s nickname.



The name "Venezuela" is believed to have originated from the cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, who in 1499 led a naval exploration of the northwestern coast (known today as the Gulf of Venezuela), along with Alonso de Ojeda. On reaching the Guajira Peninsula, the crew observed the stilt villages (palafitos) that the Añu natives had built over the water. This reminded Vespucci of the city of Venice and as a result the region was named Venezuela, which means Little Venice. On the other hand, Spanish conquistador and geographer Martín Fernández de Enciso, member of the same crew, says in his work Summa de Geografía that the above mentioned population was called Veneciuela, and that it was built on a large, plain rock. Therefore, the name Venezuela would be a native word. Nevertheless, the first version remains today as the most popular and widely accepted, and by far regarded as the most likely.


Main article: History of Venezuela
Simón Bolívar, El Libertador
Simón Bolívar, El Libertador

Venezuela was the site of one of the first permanent Spanish settlements 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 declared independence from Spain on July 5th 1811 under the leadership of its most famous son, Simón Bolívar. Nevertheless, the full control over Venezuelan territory was achieved after Bolivar, with the help of General José Antonio Páez and especially the then General Grand Marshall Antonio José de Sucre, whose battle plan Bolívar chose to follow, won the Battle of Carabobo in June 24th 1821, and after José Prudencio Padilla won the Naval Battle of Lake Maracaibo on July 24th 1823. Subsequently, Bolívar led the armies of Venezuela and other countries to freedom and founded what are now Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Another important revolutionary leader during the war was the aforementioned Antonio José de Sucre, who won many battles for Bolivar and was a candidate to become his natural successor until he was murdered. Venezuela became, after the revolutionary war, along with Colombia and Ecuador part of the Republic of Gran Colombia (República de Gran Colombia) until 1830, when the country separated through a rebellion led by the aforementioned Jose Antonio Páez and declared itself as a sovereign republic. Páez became the first president of Venezuela.

Much of Venezuela's 19th and early 20th century history was characterized by political instability, political struggle, and dictatorial rule. Following the death of Juan Vicente Gómez in 1935 and the demise of caudillismo (authoritarian oligarchical rule), democratic struggles eventually forced the military to withdraw from direct involvement in national politics in 1958. Since that year, Venezuela has enjoyed an unbroken tradition of democratic civilian rule, though not without conflict.

Venezuela is member of the South American Community of Nations (SACN). (more)

See also: Discoverer of the Americas, List of Presidents of Venezuela


Main article: Politics of Venezuela
The Civil Flag of Venezuela.       Venezuela       The Aragüaney, the National Tree of Venezuela.
—   Venezuela's Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall.   Geography   Political Map of Venezuela.   —
States-Cities-Lake Maracaibo
— Politics & Elections —
National Assembly-Parties
Foreign Affairs
— History & Wars —
New Granada-Bolívar's War
Angostura-Gran Colombia
Bolivarian Revolution
— Society & Culture —

Politics (by country)
Leaders -  Legislatures
Elections by country - by date
Parties by country - by name

The Venezuelan president is elected by a popular 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 165 deputies, of which three are reserved for indigenous peoples, 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 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.

In 1992, there was an attempt by rebellious entities within the Venezuelan military to remove two-time democratically elected president, Carlos Andrés Pérez, from power. The coup ultimately failed and its supporters were jailed for treason. Later on Presidente Pérez was eventually impeached and convicted for corruption. The coup also brought about the death of 80 civilians and 17 members of the armed forces. It must be noted that amidst the four main military leaders of the failed coup, the current president of Venezuela, Chávez, played a role. The resistance of a president generally perceived as corrupt by the lower classes made him a prominent, much admired figure among them. When Chávez, and the other three military leaders, were eventually released from jail in 1994 by Perez's elected successor, Rafael Caldera, the lower classes above-mentioned perception was paramount to his envolvement in politics.

Chávez was elected president in 1998 with 56% of the vote as part of a new political party, the Movement for the Fifth Republic. His platform, (Bolivarian revolution), called for the signing of a new constitution written by a Constituent Assembly and approved by referendum in 1999. Chávez was re-elected in 2000 under the new constitution with 59% of the vote. In November 2000, the National Assembly granted Chávez the right to rule by decree for one year, and in November 2001, Chávez made a set of 49 decrees, including large reforms in oil and agrarian policy. Though many of these decrees still must be concretely acted upon, they made him even more popular with the poor.

Mostly as an attempt to antagonize the United States government, Chávez openly admits to attempting to establish socialism in Venezuela, flaunting close ties with Cuban President Fidel Castro. The most recent examples of his self-proclaimed socialist program include expropriation of plantations that owner-occupants claim are private property. Although political parties supporting Chávez have consistently won a majority of seats in parliament, Chávez has slowly made party policy to garner control of most branches of the government. The government has often had to create new grassroots public services in the form of "missions." The governments claim is that this is necesarry to avoid going through a "corrupt bureaucracy," but after six years in power, and with a almost absolute control of the several governmental branches, it has begun to raise questions as to its indifference - or powerlessness - to erradicate corruption. (see Transparency International).

In December 2001, the umbrella group of the nation's largest business organizations, Fedecamaras, and several workers' groups, the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela and the petroleum workers' union, PDVSA, called the country to a general strike. It was a first in the history of labour relations; owners, executives, managers and a few rank-and-file workers joined together to protest, principally, Chávez's economic policies. In April 11th 2002, high-ranking members within the Armed Forces, during massive opposition demonstrations that unexpectedly began to march towards the Presidential Palace on refused to carry out the Plan Avila, ordered by Chávez.

Although the exact circumstances are muddled, many unarmed protesters were shot at (television broadcasts at the time showed pro-government protesters firing guns into the general direction of the manifestations), with the result that 18 people were killed that day. To this day, the responsibility for these deaths has not been established. During the chaos that ensued, high-ranking military officials reported that Chávez had resigned (though, later on, Chavez insisted he had been taken hostage by the military and forced to sign a letter of resignation). During the confusion that followed the power void, Fedecámaras President Pedro Carmona Estanga stepped up and took power. Though initially supported by the high-ranking military that had rebelled against Chávez, he lost support after he proceeded to dissolve all democratic institutions formed under the Chávez regime - and part of the military that remained loyal to Chávez brought him back. Diosdado Cabello, Vice President of Venezuela, exerted his constitutional rights and temporarily assumed the position of president, until Chávez was restored to the Presidency.

The following two years were marked by massive protests by the opposition, who managed in 2004 to obtain more than 2 million signatures to call for a referendum on Chávez, who in turn accused many of the signatures of being fraudulent. The recall referendum was held on 15 August 2004, and Chávez won (that is, he was permitted to stay in office) with approximately 60% of the vote. Leaders and supporters of the opposition refused to accept the results of the election, and claimed fraud, despite international observers that endorsed the election as free and fair. Although the Organization of American States and the Carter Center certified the referendum, disillusioned protests continue to this day, and have caused concern and worry about the fate of future elections.

Political-Administrative Division


Main article: States of Venezuela

Venezuela is subdivided into 23 states (estados), a Capital District (Distrito Capital) correspondent to the city of Caracas, and the Federal Dependencies (Dependencias Federales). Refer to the map for correspondence.

States of Venezuela and the Federal Dependencies
States of Venezuela and the Federal Dependencies
States of Venezuela
State Capital City State Capital City
1) Amazonas Puerto Ayacucho 13) Mérida Mérida
2) Anzoátegui Barcelona 14) Miranda Los Teques
3) Apure San Fernando de Apure 15) Monagas Maturín
4) Aragua Maracay 16) Nueva Esparta La Asunción
5) Barinas Barinas 17) Portuguesa Guanare
6) Bolívar Ciudad Bolívar 18) Sucre Cumaná
7) Carabobo Valencia 19) Táchira San Cristóbal
8) Cojedes San Carlos 20) Trujillo Trujillo
9) Delta Amacuro Tucupita 21) Yaracuy San Felipe
10) Falcón Coro 22) Vargas La Güaira
11) Guárico San Juan De Los Morros 23) Zulia Maracaibo
12) Lara Barquisimeto 24) Federal Dependencies not appliable

Administrative Regions

Main article: Administrative Regions of Venezuela

The country is also divided into ten administrative regions (regiones administrativas), the administrative regions were established by presidential decrees.

Administrative Regions of Venezuela
Region Forming States
Capital Miranda, Vargas, and the Capital District (i.e., Caracas).
Central Aragua, Carabobo and Cojedes.
Insular Nueva Esparta and the Federal Dependencies
Nor - Oriental Anzoátegui, Monagas, and Sucre.
Zulian Zulia.
Guayana Bolívar, Amazonas and Delta Amacuro.
Andean Barinas, Mérida and Trujillo.
South - Occidental Táchira, and the Páez Municipality of the Apure State
Llanos Apure and Guárico.
Central - Occidental Falcón, Lara, Portuguesa and Yaracuy.


Main article: Geography of Venezuela

Venezuela is home to a wide variety of landscapes, such as the north-easternmost extensions of the Andes mountains in the northwest and along the northern Caribbean coast, of which the highest point is the Pico Bolívar at 5,007 m.

The Angel Falls (Salto Ángel), world's highest waterfall
The Angel Falls (Salto Ángel), world's highest waterfall

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, and the northern edge of Amazonia. This is a classical division, however.

The country can also be divided into nine geographical areas, some corresponding to the natural regions, one being the Andes Range. The Lake Maracaibo region comprehends the lowlands near the Gulf of Venezuela. The Coro System, a mountainous block in the northern occidental territory, is the fount of several sierras and valleys. The Central Range is tied up with the coast and the hills surrounding Caracas, while the Eastern Range, separated from the Central by the Gulf of Cariaco, covers all of Sucre State and northern Monagas. The Llanos Region involves a third part of the country's area, above the Orinoco River. Under it, is the South Orinoco Region (the Guianas, above described). The Insular Region is formed by the Nueva Esparta State and the Federal Dependencies. The last geographical region is the Deltaic System forms a pantanous triangle, covering Delta Amacuro State, with the Atlantic platform branchin off the coast.

Mt. Kukenan, in Venezuela.
Mt. Kukenan, in Venezuela.

The Orinoco River is the largest and most important river of the country, originating one of the biggest watersheds in Latin America. Other important rivers are the Caroní and the Apure.

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.

Venezuela is one of the seventeen Megadiverse Countries, for the great number of animal and vegetal species that habitate there. (more)


Main article: Economy of Venezuela

The petroleum sector dominates the economy, accounting for roughly a third of GDP, around 80% of export earnings, and more than half of government operating revenues. The sector operates through the government-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, which among other things owns the US Citgo distributor, which has 14,000 service stations in the US.

Venezuela also depends highly on the agricultural sector. Venezuela has the potential to export coffee and cocoa on a grand scale.


View of an old suburban area of Maracaibo
View of an old suburban area of Maracaibo
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 languages also exist (Wayu, Pemon, Warao, etc), as do dialects introduced by immigrants. Nominally 96% of the population is Roman Catholic; other denominations, primarily Protestants, make up the remainder. Some other large Christian numbers are Jehovah's Witnesses who are increasing quickly with an estimated 100,000 members. There is a historic and strong Jewish community in Venezuela as well. community of about 30,000. (more) Also around 130,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and growing. Source:


Main article: Military of Venezuela


Above, image of a crowd dancing joropo, the emblematic Venezuelan dance
Above, image of a crowd dancing joropo, the emblematic Venezuelan dance
Main article: Culture of Venezuela

The Venezuelan culture comes from a wide variety of heritages, mainly of the indigenous populations, Spanish and African provenance, dating from the Colony. Before this period, indigenous cultural manifestations were expressed in art (petroglyphs), crafts, architecture (shabonos) and social organization. Aboriginal culture was subsequently assimilated by Spaniards; over the years, the hybrid culture had diversified by region.

Venezuelan art is gaining attention within and outside the country. Firstly dominated by religious motives, in the late 19th century changed to historical and heroic representations, led by Martín Tovar y Tovar. Modernism took over in the 20th century. Some very remarkable Venezuelan artists include Arturo Michelena, Cristóbal Rojas, Armando Reverón, Jesús-Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez (who both contributed greatly to kinetic art), and Manuel Cabré.

Image of a traditional public performance by the Diablos Danzantes de Yare (Dancing Devils of Yare)
Image of a traditional public performance by the Diablos Danzantes de Yare (Dancing Devils of Yare)

Venezuelan literature began developing soon after Spanish conquest, and it was dominated by Spanish culture and thinking. Following the rise of political literature during the Independence War, was the Romanticism, the first important genre in the region, whose great exponent was Juan Vicente González. Although mainly focused on narrative, poets figure with great importance, being Andrés Eloy Blanco the most famous of them, aside Fermín Toro. Major writers and novelists are Rómulo Gallegos, Teresa de la Parra, Arturo Uslar Pietri, Adriano González León, Miguel Otero Silva and Mariano Picón Salas. Another great poet and humanist was Andrés Bello, besides being and educator and a intellectual.

Other philosophers and intellectuals, like Laureano Vallenilla Lanz and José Gil Fortoul, along with many other writers, sustained the theory of the Venezuelan positivism.

The great architect of the Venezuelan Modern era was Carlos Raúl Villanueva, who designed and built the Universidad Central de Venezuela(World Heritage)) and its Aula Magna. Venezuelan architecture examples are the National Pantheon, the Baralt Theatre, the Teatro Teresa Carreño,and the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge.

Autoctonal music styles are sort of a crisol of the Venezuelan cultural inheritages, most noted in groups like Un Solo Pueblo and Serenata Guayanesa. The national musical instrument is the cuatro. The national songs are mainly from the llanos area and its environment, so is the case of the Alma Llanera and Caballo Viejo by Simón Díaz. The gaitas is also a popular style, played generally on Christmas, typical of Zulia State. The national dance is the joropo.

Teresa Carreño was a world famous piano virtuosa during late 19th century.

Venezuela is also a reference for their world famous baseball players, such as Luis Aparicio, David Concepción, Oswaldo Guillén, Andrés Galarraga, Omar Vizquel, Luis Sojo, and Johan Santana, winner of the Cy Young Award in 2004. Although baseball is tremendously popular, football (soccer) is also gaining popularity, due to the increasing performance of the Venezuela national football team.

See also:


Holidays of Venezuela
Date Local Name English Name Remarks
January 1 Día de Año Nuevo New Year's Day Beginning of the Liturgical Year
January 6 Día de Reyes Epiphany Christian feast, the visit of the three Magi to Jesus.
Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday Carnaval Carnival -
From Palm Sunday to Easter Semana Santa Holy Week Commemoration of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
March 19 Día de San José Saint Joseph's Day In honor of Saint Joseph
April 19 19 de abril Beginning of the Independence Movement Remembering the 1810 coup d'état and start of the Venezuelan Independence
May 1 Día del Trabajador Labour Day -
June 24 Batalla de Carabobo Battle of Carabobo Ensurance of the Venezuelan Independence; tagged also as Army's Day
July 5 5 de julio Independence Day Signing of the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence
July 24 Natalicio del Libertador Birth of Simón Bolívar Also tagged as Navy's Day.
October 12 Día de la Resistencia Indígena Columbus Day Previously, in Venezuela the holiday was called Día de la Raza, celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas.
November 1 Día de Todos los Santos All Saints Day
November 17 to November 19 Feria de la Chinita Feria of La Chinita Only in Zulia State; celebrating the miracle of Our Lady of Rosario of Chiquinquirá.
December 8 Inmaculada Concepción Immaculate Conception Celebrating the preservance of Mary, the mother of Jesus from the original sin by the Grace of God.
December 24 Nochebuena Christmas Eve Birth of Jesus (Divino Niño).
December 31 Nochevieja New Year's Eve Final day of the Liturgical Year


National Symbols

The orchid (Cattleya mossiae)
The orchid (Cattleya mossiae)

Venezuela's national symbols include the Flag, the Coat of Arms, and the National Anthem. Other elements relative to the typical flora and fauna of the territory are remarkable. The governments through history have officially declared these as national symbols:

National Flower

  • The orchid (Cattleya mossiae)

This kind of orchid is also known as Flor de Mayo (May Flower). Was first discovered in the northern land in 1839. Was given the status of National Flower on 23 May 1951.

National Tree

Called aravanei by the caribes, it can be found mostly in regions with temperate weather. It can reach a height between 6 and 12 m. The araguaney flourishes within the period following a rainy season, mostly on the first months of the year. Rómulo Gallegos referred to these months as "La primavera de oro de los araguaneyes" (the golden spring of the araguaneyes). Declared National Tree on 29 May 1945.

National Bird

Fully coloured with yellow-orange tones except in the head an the wings, which are black with a few tones in white; also has a blue spot surrounding the eyes. It can be found in woods, the llanos, at the shores of jungles, and in northern and southern Orinoco. The turpial is fairly appreciated due to its singing and was declared the National Bird on 23 May 1958.

See also

External links

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