Venezuela

 

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 since 1999, seeks to implement his “21st Century Socialism,” which purports to alleviate social ills while at the same time attacking globalization and undermining regional stability. Current concerns include: a weakening of democratic institutions, political polarization, a politicized military, drug-related violence 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.

 

Geography:
Location: Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana
Geographic coordinates: 8 00 N, 66 00 W
People:
Population: 28,047,938 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.5% (male 4,149,781/female 4,002,931)

15-64 years: 63 65.1% (male 8,846,945/female 9,130,561)

65 years and over: 5.4% (male 665,436/female 840,089) (2011 est.)

Government:
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
Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use: 7.083 million (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 27.88 million (2009)
Transportation:
Airports: 492 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 128

over 3,047 m: 6

2,438 to 3,047 m: 9

1,524 to 2,437 m: 35

914 to 1,523 m: 61

under 914 m: 17 (2012)

Military:
Military branches: Bolivarian National Armed Forces (Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana, FANB): Bolivarian National Army (Ejercito Nacional Bolivariano, ENB), Bolivarian Navy (Armada Bolivariana, AB; includes Naval Infantry, Coast Guard, Naval Aviation), Bolivarian Military Aviation (Aviacion Militar Bolivariana, AMB), Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivaria, GNB) (2011)
Military service age and obligation: 18-30 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; 30-month conscript service obligation; Navy requires 6th-grade education for enlisted personnel; all citizens of military service age (18-60 years old) are obligated to register for military service (2011)

Economy:

Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil revenues, which account for roughly 90% of export earnings, more than 50% of the federal budget revenues, and around 30% of GDP. A nationwide strike between December 2002 and February 2003 had far-reaching economic consequences – real GDP declined by around 9% in 2002 and 8% in 2003 – but economic output since then has recovered strongly. Fuelled by high oil prices, record government spending helped to boost GDP in 2006 by about 9% and in 2007 by about 8%.

 

This spending, combined with recent minimum wage hikes and improved access to domestic credit, has created a consumption boom but has come at the cost of higher inflation-roughly 20 percent in 2007. Imports also have jumped significantly. Embolden by his December 2006 re-election, President Hugo CHAVEZ in 2007 nationalized firms in the petroleum, communications, and electricity sectors, which reduced foreign influence in the economy. Although voters in December 2007 rejected CHAVEZ’s proposed constitutional changes, CHAVEZ still has significant control of the economy and has indicated he intends to continue to consolidate and centralize authority over the economy by implementing “21st Century Socialism.”

Transnational Issues:

Claims all of the area west of the Essequibo River in Guyana, preventing any discussion of a maritime boundary; Guyana has expressed its intention to join Barbados in asserting claims before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that Trinidad and Tobago’s maritime boundary with Venezuela extends into their waters; dispute with Colombia over maritime boundary and Venezuelan-administered Los Monjes islands near the Gulf of Venezuela; Colombian-organized illegal narcotics and paramilitary activities penetrate Venezuela’s shared border region; in 2006, an estimated 139,000 Colombians sought protection in 150 communities along the border in Venezuela; US, France, and the Netherlands recognize Venezuela’s granting full effect to Aves Island, thereby claiming a Venezuelan EEZ/continental shelf extending over a large portion of the eastern Caribbean Sea; Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines protest Venezuela’s full effect claim