Lying on the southern shores of the Caribbean,Venezuela was the first of Spain’s colonies to seek independence. Despite large oil reserves, many Venezuelans still live in poverty.
Geography: Andes Mountains and the Maracaibo lowlands in the northwest. Central grassy plains are drained by the Orinoco River system. Forested Guiana Highlands in the southeast.
Climate: Tropical. Hot and humid. Uplands are cooler. Orinoco plains are alternately parched or flooded.
People and Society: Venezuela is historically a “melting pot,” with immigrants from Europe and all over Latin America. The few indigenous Amerindians live in remote areas. Venezuela has one of the most urbanized societies in the region, with most of its population living in the northern cities. President Chávez’s leftwing rhetoric raises opposition within Venezuela from urban society, and from the US.
The Economy: Oil accounts for 95% of exports. Reserves of coal, gold, other minerals. Nationalization program is enlarging the inefficient, corruption-prone state sector and deterring foreign investors.
Insight: Venezuela’s Angel Falls is the world’s tallest waterfall, with a total drop of 3210 ft (979 m)
Official Name: Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Date of Formation: 1830
Population: 28.6 million
Total Area: 352,143 sq. miles (912,050 sq. km)
Density: 84 people per sq. mile
Languages: Spanish*, native languages
Religions: Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant and other 11%
Ethnic Mix: Mestizo 69%, White 20%, Black 9%, Amerindian 2%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Bolívar fuerte = 100 céntimos