Venezuela [Country Flag of Venezuela]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Venezuela]



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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

Map references: South America, Central America and the Caribbean

total: 912,050 sq km
land: 882,050 sq km
water: 30,000 sq km

Area—comparative: slightly more than twice the size of California

Land boundaries:
total: 4,993 km
border countries: Brazil 2,200 km, Colombia 2,050 km, Guyana 743 km

Coastline: 2,800 km

Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 15 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

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

Land use:
arable land: 4%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 20%
forests and woodland: 34%
other: 41% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 1,900 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: subject to floods, rockslides, mud slides; periodic droughts

Environment—current issues: sewage pollution of Lago de Valencia; oil and urban pollution of Lago de Maracaibo; deforestation; soil degradation; urban and industrial pollution, especially along the Caribbean coast

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Dumping

Geography—note: on major sea and air routes linking North and South America


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Population: 22,803,409 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 34% (male 3,979,045; female 3,733,364)
15-64 years: 62% (male 7,054,525; female 7,011,814)
65 years and over: 4% (male 469,799; female 554,862) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.77% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 22.96 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 4.98 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: -0.27 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.85 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 27.52 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 72.66 years
male: 69.68 years
female: 75.87 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.7 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Venezuelan(s)
adjective: Venezuelan

Ethnic groups: mestizo 67%, white 21%, black 10%, Amerindian 2%

Religions: nominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%

Languages: Spanish (official), native dialects spoken by about 200,000 Amerindians in the remote interior

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 91.1%
male: 91.8%
female: 90.3% (1995 est.)


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Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Venezuela
conventional short form: Venezuela
local long form: Republica de Venezuela
local short form: Venezuela

Data code: VE

Government type: republic

National capital: Caracas

Administrative divisions: 22 states (estados, singular—estado),1 federal district* (distrito federal), and 1 federal dependency** (dependencia federal); Amazonas, Anzoategui, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Bolivar, Carabobo, Cojedes, Delta Amacuro, Dependencias Federales**, Distrito Federal*, Falcon, Guarico, Lara, Merida, Miranda, Monagas, Nueva Esparta, Portuguesa, Sucre, Tachira, Trujillo, Yaracuy, Zulia
note: the federal dependency consists of 11 federally controlled island groups with a total of 72 individual islands

Independence: 5 July 1811 (from Spain)

National holiday: Independence Day, 5 July (1811)

Constitution: 23 January 1961

Legal system: based on Napoleonic code; judicial review of legislative acts in Cassation Court only; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Rafael CALDERA Rodriguez (since 2 February 1994); note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Rafael CALDERA Rodriguez (since 2 February 1994); note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 5 December 1993 (next to be held 6 December 1998)
election results: Rafael CALDERA Rodriguez elected president; percent of vote—Rafael CALDERA Rodriguez (National Convergence) 30.45%, Claudio FERMIN (AD) 23.59%, Oswaldo ALVAREZ PAZ (COPEI) 22.72%, Andres VELASQUEZ (Causa R) 21.94%, other 1.3%

Legislative branch: bicameral Congress of the Republic or Congreso de la Republica consists of the Senate or Senado (52 seats, two from each state and the Federal District (50), and retired presidents (2); members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) and Chamber of Deputies or Camara de Diputados (207 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate—last held 5 December 1993 (next to be held 6 December 1998); Chamber of Deputies—last held 5 December 1993 (next to be held 6 December 1998)
election results: Senate—percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—AD 16, COPEI 14, Causa R 9, National Convergence 5, MAS 3, independents 5; note—two former presidents (1 from AD, 1 from COPEI) hold lifetime Senate seats; Chamber of Deputies—percent of vote by party—AD 25.6%, COPEI 24.6%, MAS 10.6%, National Convergence 8.7%, Causa R 19.3%; seats by party—AD 53, COPEI 51, Causa R 40, MAS 22, National Convergence 18, other 23

Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Justice (Corte Suprema de Justicia), magistrates are elected by both chambers in joint session for a nine-year term, a third are re-elected every three years

Political parties and leaders: National Convergence (Convergencia), Jose Miguel UZCATEGUI, president, Juan Jose CALDERA, national coordinator; Social Christian Party (COPEI), Luis HERRERA Campins, president, and Donald RAMIREZ, secretary general; Democratic Action (AD), David MORALES Bello, president, and Luis ALFARO Ucero, secretary general; Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), Felipe MUJICA, president, and Leopoldo PUCHI, secretary general; Radical Cause (La Causa R), Lucas MATHEUS, secretary general; Homeland for All (PPT), Alexis ROSAS, director

Political pressure groups and leaders: FEDECAMARAS, a conservative business group; Venezuelan Confederation of Workers (CTV, labor organization dominated by the Democratic Action); VECINOS groups

International organization participation: AG, Caricom (observer), CCC, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G- 3, G-11, G-15, G-19, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, MINUGUA, MINURSO, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPEC, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Pedro Luis ECHEVERRIA
chancery: 1099 30th Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
telephone: [1] (202) 342-2214
FAX: [1] (202) 342-6820
consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador John Francis MAISTO
embassy: Calle F con Calle Suapure, Colinas de Valle Arriba, Caracas 1060
mailing address: P. O. Box 62291, Caracas 1060-A; APO AA 34037
telephone: [58] (2) 977-2011
FAX: [58] (2) 977-0843

Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of yellow (top), blue, and red with the coat of arms on the hoist side of the yellow band and an arc of seven white five-pointed stars centered in the blue band


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Economy—overview: The petroleum sector dominates the economy, accounting for 27% of GDP, 78% of export earnings, and more than half of government operating revenues. It is likely to become even more important as the state petroleum company plans to double its production over the next 10 years. Realizing the failure of interventionist policies, the CALDERA administration embarked on a comprehensive economic reform program, which included negotiation of a stand-by agreement with the IMF in 1996, elimination of price and exchange controls, and revitalization of Venezuela's stalled privatization program. The influx of foreign capital, and the currency depreciation that followed exchange liberalization, led to 103% inflation in 1996, the highest in Venezuelan history. The government stepped in toward the end of 1996, propping up the Bolivar by using a stable nominal exchange rate as a restraint on inflation—which fell in 1997 to 38%. The macroeconomic adjustments, bolstered by strong oil prices, resulted in strong growth in 1997. However, the East Asian financial crisis and the decline of international oil prices toward the end of 1997 brought pressure on the currency, which Caracas was able to stave off. Caracas readjusted its exchange rate bands and began to allow quicker depreciation of the Bolivar; the government also tightened monetary policy. Concerned over potential revenue shortfalls from soft oil prices for the 1998 budget, Caracas has implemented budget cuts to compensate for previously optimistic oil revenue estimates. The government also has pushed ahead with sale of the state-owned steel company and the strategic aluminum sector, thereby reassuring domestic and international investors of Venezuela's commitment to reform. The monetary and fiscal measures have been well received by the international financial community. As a result, financial analysts believe the economy will still grow at a healthy pace in 1998, though they have lowered their initial projections for GDP growth due to the soft oil market.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$185 billion (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 5% (1997)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$8,300 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 4%
industry: 63%
services: 33% (1997 est.)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 38% (1997)

Labor force:
total: 9.2 million
by occupation: services 64%, industry 23%, agriculture 13% (1997 est.)

Unemployment rate: 11.5% (1997 est.)

revenues: $11.99 billion
expenditures: $11.48 billion, including capital expenditures of $3 billion (1996 est.)

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

Industrial production growth rate: 0.5% (1995 est.)

Electricity—capacity: 18.975 million kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 74 billion kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 3,508 kWh (1995)

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

total value: $20.8 billion (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: petroleum 78%, bauxite and aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products, basic manufactures
partners: US and Puerto Rico 55%, Japan, Netherlands, Italy

total value: $10.5 billion (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials
partners: US 40%, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Canada

Debt—external: $26.5 billion (1996)

Economic aid:
recipient: ODA, $46 million (1993)

Currency: 1 bolivar (Bs) = 100 centimos

Exchange rates: bolivares (Bs) per US$1—507.447 (January 1998), 488.635 (1997), 417.333 (1996), 176.843 (1995), 148.503 (1994), 90.826 (1993)

Fiscal year: calendar year


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Telephones: 1.44 million (1987 est.)

Telephone system: modern and expanding
domestic: domestic satellite system with 3 earth stations
international: 3 submarine coaxial cables; satellite earth station—1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 181, FM 0, shortwave 26

Radios: 9.04 million (1992 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 59

Televisions: 3.3 million (1992 est.)


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total: 584 km (336 km single track; 248 km privately owned)
standard gauge: 584 km 1.435-m gauge

total: 84,300 km
paved: 33,214 km
unpaved: 51,086 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: 7,100 km; Rio Orinoco and Lago de Maracaibo accept oceangoing vessels

Pipelines: crude oil 6,370 km; petroleum products 480 km; natural gas 4,010 km

Ports and harbors: Amuay, Bajo Grande, El Tablazo, La Guaira, La Salina, Maracaibo, Matanzas, Palua, Puerto Cabello, Puerto la Cruz, Puerto Ordaz, Puerto Sucre, Punta Cardon

Merchant marine:
total: 28 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 526,832 GRT/933,135 DWT
ships by type: bulk 4, cargo 5, combination bulk 1, container 1, liquefied gas tanker 2, oil tanker 9, passenger-cargo 1, roll-on/roll-off cargo 4, short-sea passenger 1 (1997 est.)

Airports: 377 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 126
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 10
1,524 to 2,437 m: 35
914 to 1,523 m: 61
under 914 m: 15 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 251
1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 96
under 914 m: 147 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: National Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Nacionales or FAN) includes Ground Forces or Army (Fuerzas Terrestres or Ejercito), Naval Forces (Fuerzas Navales or Armada), Air Force (Fuerzas Aereas or Aviacion), Armed Forces of Cooperation or National Guard (Fuerzas Armadas de Cooperacion or Guardia Nacional)

Military manpower—military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 6,134,691 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 4,429,265 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—reaching military age annually:
males: 240,506 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $902 million (1996)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 1.4% (1996)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: claims all of Guyana west of the Essequibo River; maritime boundary dispute with Colombia in the Gulf of Venezuela

Illicit drugs: illicit producer of cannabis, opium, and coca leaf for the international drug trade on a small scale; however, large quantities of cocaine and heroin transit the country from Colombia; important money-laundering hub; active eradication program primarily targeting opium