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1- The location of Venezuela, in dark green. Venezuela's claims to Guyana are in light green.
State Flag of Venezuela

Official state flag of Venezuela.

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a democratic nation, as of May 2011 governed by a Bolivarian government. It formally achieved independence from imperialist Spain in 1811, although the war with Spain continued until 1823, and then as Gran Colombia until 1825. From 1948 to 1958 the country was ruled by a brutal right-wing dictatorship, dominated by Marcos Pérez Jiménez[1]. Following this was a period of comparative democracy, but nevertheless the political left was excluded from power[2]. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, economic crisis resulted in widespread indignation against the government, and the eventual house arrest and removal from power of President Carlos Andrés Pérez for corruption[3]. Antigovernment leader Hugo Chávez was pardoned in 1994, and was elected President in 1998 with a resounding majority. Chávez has pursued an independent, democratic socialist policy since his election.

History

Venezuela was first settled around 13,000 BCE[4]. Several thousand years later, Venezuela (along with other countries in the Americas) suffered a megafauna (large animal) extinction event, probably related to human hunters[5]. After this, the Venezuelan aboriginals were careful to take only sustainable quantities of food from the environment. This equilibrium was disrupted with the arrival of Spanish imperialists in 1498 C.E. Before long, Spain began colonizing the area (in 1522). The Spanish used slaves (indigenous and African) to work large gold mines in Yaracuy province[6], and to raise livestock.

2- Venezuelan forces defeated imperialist Spain in the Battle of Carabobo

By the end of the 18th Century, the area was thoroughly disgusted with Spanish imperialist crimes, and in 1810 the Venezuelan War of Independence broke out. Rebel leader Francisco de Miranda, however, betrayed this first revolution to the Spanish[7]. Simón Bolívar then launched a second revolution from 1813, and finally won a decisive victory at the Battle of Carabobo in 1821[8]. An army from Spain invaded Venezuela in 1823, hoping to re-establish their colony, but they were defeated at Lake Maracaibo. Venezuela was now part of a federation of independent states called Gran Colombia, or Great Colombia, which included the modern countries of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Guyana, and, obviously, Venezuela. This federation defeated the last Spanish armies in 1825, but Gran Colombia broke up in 1830 over the issue of the constitution.

For decades after independence, then Venezuelan political scene was dominated by José Antonio Páez. He was President from 1830 to 1835, 1839 to 1843, and 1861 to 1863. One of Páez’s greatest achievements was the destruction of the Church’s control over education and the immunity of the Church to taxation[9]. Páez’s first real rival for power was José Tadeo Monagas, Venezuela’s dictator in the 1850s. He and his brother José Gregorio Monagas introduced many liberal reforms, including the abolition of slavery and of the death penalty[10]. Following this era was the Federal War, a civil war which raged from 1859 to 1863. Páez led a liberal, reformist faction of the poor, but was defeated by the “Federalists”, or conservative landowners. The death toll was 40,000, an enormous blow for a country with a population less than 2 million[11]. Many have argued the Federal War was in fact an early example of a socialist/ Bolivarian revolution[12].

Following the war (1863-1870) the Federalists governed the country. However, in 1869 Antonio Guzmán Blanco successfully led a revolution, leading to his presidencies (1870-1877, 1879-1884, 1886-1887). Blanco modernized the infrastructure, building the Caracas-La Guaira railroad, expanded the education system, and continued Páez’s campaigns against the dominance of the Church[13], before retiring to Paris.

The power gap following Blanco’s retirement was filled by Joaquín Crespo, who was President 1892-1898 (as well as an earlier term from 1884-1886, after which he was exiled in disgrace). Crespo is widely viewed as corrupt, and left Venezuela heavily in foreign debt. After a brief period of democratic rule, the government was deposed by Cipriano Castro Ruiz, who continued Crespo’s policies of confrontation with foreign governments and corruption[14]. It was not until 1945 that another election was held. However, in 1918 large reserves of oil were discovered, and by 1929 Venezuela was the world’s largest exporter of oil[15].

Eventually the Venezuelans scheduled another election for 1945. However, when it became clear that the leftist Democratic Action party (in fact, the leader of the Democratic Action had previously been Venezuela’s most influential communist) enjoyed by far the most support, the forces of the right attempted a clampdown, but were defeated. Parliamentary elections in 1945 showed a resounding victory by Democratic Action, echoed in the 1947 presidential elections, with 70.83% of the vote[16] (the first truly democratic ones in Venezuelan history[17][18].

This democratic government did not last long, however. Conservatives in the Venezuelan military took power in a coup d’état[19], and ruled Venezuela in a brutal military junta from 1948 to 1958, supressing election results[20]. Finally, in 1958, a popular revolution returned Venezuela to democratic rule[21].

3- Chávez holding the new Venezuelan constitution

The 1958 election showed Democratic Action remained the most popular political party, and so it resumed power[21]. During this period, the DA became increasingly corrupt[22], and drifted towards the political right, ending government economic control in favour of American-style deregulation[23]. In 1978, the DA was defeated. However, the DA returned to power in 1983 and 1988. The economy collapsed, and the DA faced three popular revolutions, once in 1989 and twice in 1992 (including one led by Hugo Chávez). All failed. President Carlos Andrés Pérez was finally removed from office and placed under house arrest by the courts[24].

The presidency then passed to Rafael Caldera in the 1993 elections. He faced a banking crisis[25] from DA deregulation, similar to the 2008 American banking crisis. He failed to contain it.

Exasperated, Venezuelans turned to Hugo Chávez, leading to the Bolivarian Revolution. Chávez won by a large margin, and 71.8% of Venezuelans supported the reformation of Venezuela into the Fifth, Bolivarian republic[26]. Chávez, though, supported the end of American political influence over Venezuela. Consequently, in 2002 the Americans attempted a coup[27], but this failed due to an immediate popular revolution of the working classes[28].

Under Chávez, the Venezuelan economy has significantly improved, as have the rights of the Venezuelan people[29]. Chávez accomplished the “eradication of illiteracy”[30], and has significantly reduced poverty[31].

Geography and climate

Venezuela contains several major geographic regions. There are mountains in both the southeast and the north, with large lowlands in between. In the northwest, there is also a strip of lowlands along the coastline. Venezuela is a tropical climate, and has heavy rainfall between June and October[32].

Venezuela is famous for the large biodiversity of the country. To protect them, Venezuela has forty-three national parks.

Venezuela is also well-known for its oil reserves. The proven reserves are the seventh-largest on Earth[33].

Government

4- The flag of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a democratic country, with an executive branch of the Presidency and the legislative branch being the National Assembly[34].

Venezuela’s current government is led by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), with Hugo Chávez as Venezuela’s President. The ideology of the PSUV is called Bolivarianism, after 19th Century revolutionary leader Simón Bolívar. It uses democratic socialism[35][36] to achieve six goals[37]:

Social Services

Venezuela provides many government-funded social supports, including those below.

5- Students arriving at the new Bolivarian University's main campus

Education

Since the Bolivarian Constitution came into force, the “eradication of illiteracy”[38] has been accomplished. The Constitution makes all education, including post-secondary, free of charge[39]. The constitution also enforces mandatory basic and middle education (Grades 1-9)[40]. The effect of these policies can be seen in that adults have a mean education of just 6.2 years, whereas Venezuelan children born today can expect 14.2 years[41].

In 2003, the Venezuelan government established the Bolivarian University system, in order to combat the fact that university students tended to be drawn from the highest income brackets. The Bolivarian universities are open to any and all students[42], thus empowering the Venezuelan working class.

Healthcare

Venezuela’s health care system is also paid for by the government. Since the passage of the Bolivarian Constitution, Venezuela’s health care system has significantly improved for the poor. The strategy of the government is to build clinics and other facilities to pre-empt illness, thereby easing the burden on hospitals[43].

Venezuela has largely freed itself of malaria and other such diseases[44].

Demographics

6- Venezuela's University Hospital

Venezuela has a population of 28,121,000[45]. About one-third to two-fifths of the population is foreign, mainly European and African. Venezuela is heavily urbanized, with 93.1% of the population living in cities[45]. Similarly, 95% of the population lives in the north, where most of the big cities can be found.

7- Caracas is Venezuela's capital and largest city

Religion

The vast majority of the Venezuelan population, 92%, is Roman Catholic, including Hugo Chávez and many other government leaders. However, Chávez feels that the excessive power of the church hierarchy is contrary to Bolivarian principles[46][47].

Transportation

8- The Valencia Metro

Venezuela has a variety of transportation networks. Among them are roads, of which Venezuela has 96,155 kilometres of length, and airports, the primary international travel system.

Among these are three subway systems. The Caracas Metro is the oldest of them, predating the Bolivarian Revolution, but the Valencia and Maracaibo networks opened in 2006 and are still partially under construction. Another system, the Guarenas/Guatire Metro, will open in 2012. Venezuela also has a large above-ground train system[48].

Venezuela also has 34 ships over 1000 GRT.

Economy

9- Downtown Caracas

Venezuela’s economy suffered a severe banking crisis caused by American-style deregulation in the 1990s[49], but economic growth has resumed since the Bolivarian Revolution. In 2005, the economy grew by 10.3%, although the American financial crisis has reduced growth to 4.9% in 2008[45]. This growth is despite a decline in oil production from 557,000 m3/day in 1998 to just 366,000 m3/day[50], resulting from over-extraction of oil in the past.

Poverty in Venezuela has dropped from 54% in 2003 to just 27.5% in 2007, and extreme poverty fell from 25.1% to 7.6% in the same period[51].

To achieve this, the government of Venezuela has made considerable use of democratic socialist economic policy, and government regulation and ownership of many parts of the economy.

Military

The Venezuelan state maintains National Armed Forces in order to “guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the Nation and ensure the integrity of its geographical space”[52]. In particular, they are to defend against American aggression[53]. The military has 129,150 personnel, who are well equipped to defend Venezuela[54].

See Also

References

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/22/world/marcos-perez-jimenez-87-venezuela-ruler.html
  2. http://www.vheadline.com/readnews.asp?id=72717
  3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/78538.stm
  4. http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/samerica/ve.htm
  5. Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York, New York, W.W. Norton & Company, p.46-47, 1999. ISBN 0-393-31755-2.
  6. Braudel, Ferdinand. Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century: The Perspective of the World. Berkley and Los Angeles, California, University of California Press, p.63, 1992.
  7. http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Francisco_de_Miranda/
  8. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/94443/Battle-of-Carabobo
  9. http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ab55
  10. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/388819/Jose-Gregorio-Monagas p.10.
  11. http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Federal+War
  12. http://www.pr-inside.com/venezuela-s-president-hugo-chavez-celebrates-r1073419.htm
  13. http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/historyofsouthamerica/p/08AGBlanco.htm
  14. http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0861773.html
  15. http://www.semp.us/publications/biot_reader.php?BiotID=476
  16. McCoy, Jennifer L., and Myers, David J. The Unraveling of Representative Democracy in Venezuela. Baltimore, Maryland, John Hopkins University Press, p.157, 2004. ISBN 0-8018-8428-4.
  17. http://photo.pds.org:5005/advanced/media?id=bt148265&st=%22aids%22+or+%22hiv%22
  18. http://www.mundoandino.com/Venezuela/Carlos-Delgado-Chalbaud
  19. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,817519,00.html
  20. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,863068,00.html
  21. 21.0 21.1 McCoy, Jennifer L., and Myers, David J. The Unraveling of Representative Democracy in Venezuela. Baltimore, Maryland, John Hopkins University Press, p.157, 2004. ISBN 0-8018-8428-4.
  22. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/nov/09/1
  23. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9405EED71630F933A2575BC0A962958260
  24. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/78538.stm
  25. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9405EED71630F933A2575BC0A962958260
  26. http://web.archive.org/web/20060822130550/http://www.cne.gob.ve/estadisticas/e012.pdf
  27. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/apr/21/usa.venezuela
  28. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1925236.stm
  29. http://www.coha.org/taking-human-rights-watch-to-task/
  30. http://www.cidh.oas.org/Comunicados/English/2010/20V-10eng.htm
  31. http://www.cepr.net/documents/venezuelan_poverty_rates_2006_05.pdf
  32. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Venezuela.pdf
  33. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2178rank.html?countryCode=kn#kn
  34. The Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, Title 1, Article 2, Title 5, Chapters 1, Chapter 2, Sections 1-2 (http://www.analitica.com/bitblioteca/venezuela/constitucion_ingles.pdf)
  35. http://www.vheadline.com/readnews.asp?id=93192
  36. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/907
  37. http://www.stwr.org/latin-america-caribbean/revisiting-the-socialism-of-the-21st-century-the-bolivarian-revolution-in-latin-america-1.html
  38. http://www.cidh.oas.org/Comunicados/English/2010/20V-10eng.htm
  39. The Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, Title 3, Chapter 6, Articles 102-111, Title 5, Chapter 4, Sections 1, Article 274, Title 6, Chapter 2, Article 311 (http://www.analitica.com/bitblioteca/venezuela/constitucion_ingles.pdf)
  40. The Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, Title 3, Chapter 6, Article 107 (http://www.analitica.com/bitblioteca/venezuela/constitucion_ingles.pdf)
  41. http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/VEN.html
  42. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/24/AR2006052402444.html
  43. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Health/PeopleHealthSystem_Venez.html
  44. http://countrystudies.us/venezuela/20.htm
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 http://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
  46. http://worldnews.about.com/b/2010/07/19/chavez-ramps-up-conflict-with-catholic-church.htm
  47. http://www.hudson-ny.org/1584/venezuela-elections-catholic-church-hugo-chavez
  48. http://www.ife.gob.ve/
  49. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9405EED71630F933A2575BC0A962958260
  50. http://www.eluniversal.com/2010/01/11/eco_art_contribucion-petrole_1720725.shtml
  51. http://www.scribd.com/doc/8172174/Poverty-Reduction-in-Venezuela-A-Reality-Based-View
  52. The Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, Title 7, Chapter 3 (http://www.analitica.com/bitblioteca/venezuela/constitucion_ingles.pdf)
  53. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/18/AR2006061800565.html
  54. http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20090427/121322702.html

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