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Venezuela Country Information

Venezuela was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Ecuador). 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. Current concerns include: an embattled president, a divided military, drug-related conflicts along the Colombian border, increasing internal drug consumption, overdependence on the petroleum industry with its price fluctuations, and irresponsible mining operations that are endangering the rain forest and indigenous peoples.

Location: Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana

Area: total: 912,050 sq km
Water: 30,000 sq km
Land: 882,050 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly more than twice the size of California

Border countries: Brazil, Colombia, Guyana

Climate: tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands
Terrain: 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 (La Columna) - 5,007 m

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

Population: 25,017,387 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 30.5% (male 3,930,413; female 3,687,744)
15-64 years: 64.5% (male 8,107,382; female 8,034,905)
65 years and over: 5% (male 571,289; female 685,654) (2004 est.)
Median age: 25.2 years
Population growth rate: 1.44%
Life expectancy at birth: male: 71.02 years female: 77.32 years (2004 est.)

Ethnic groups: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, indigenous people
Religions: nominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%

Languages: Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects
Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write): total population: 93.4%

Country name: Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Government type: federal republic
Capital: Caracas
Independence: 5 July 1811 (from Spain)
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch: chief of state: President Hugo CHAVEZ Frias (since 3 February 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
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)
Judicial branch: Supreme Tribunal of Justice or Tribuna Suprema de Justicia (magistrates are elected by the National Assembly for a single 12-year term)

Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Bernardo ALVAREZ
consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and San Juan (Puerto Rico)
FAX: [1] (202) 342-6820
telephone: [1] (202) 342-2214

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) 975-9234, 975-6411
FAX: [58] (212) 975-8991

Venezuela continues to be highly dependent on the petroleum sector, which accounts for roughly one-third of GDP, around 80% of export earnings, and more than half of government operating revenues. Despite higher oil prices at the end of 2002 and into 2003, domestic political instability, culminating in a disastrous two-month national oil strike from December 2002 to February 2003, temporarily halted economic activity. The economy remained in depression in 2003, declining by 9.2% after an 8.9% fall in 2002. In late 2003, President CHAVEZ committed himself to $1 billion in new social programs, money the government does not have.

Population below poverty line: 47% (1998 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 13%, industry 23%, services 64%
Unemployment rate: 18% (2004 est.)

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

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

Exports - commodities: petroleum, bauxite and aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products, basic manufactures

Currency: bolivar (VEB)

Telephone system: general assessment: modern and expanding
international: country code - 58

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