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Venezuela Index

Venezuela possessed a relatively well-integrated transportation network that far exceeded that of most its South American neighbors. Roads were the primary means of transportation for both passengers and cargo, and the country had the highest percentage of paved highways in Latin America. The nation's extensive road network covered more than 76,600 kilometers in 1988, 34 percent of which was paved and 32 percent gravel. The remaining 34 percent was dirt roads. The southern part of the country lacked a road network and was generally not accessible by land. Bountiful oil windfalls in the 1970s allowed the country to construct modern multilane highways to serve its growing automobile population, which exceeded 2.3 million officially registered vehicles by 1986. The major international highways included the Colombian-Caribbean Highway on the north coast, which connected with the Pan-American Highway in Colombia via San Cristóbal and provided access to Brazil via Santa Elena. There was, however, no direct highway access to neighboring Guyana (see fig. 7). Approximately 55 percent of the capital's streets were paved, and other large cities displayed similar ratios. In addition to the comparatively high volume of automobile traffic, numerous bus services also transported 11.5 million passengers in 1988.

The country's railroad system was not nearly as extensive as its road network, and many industrialists complained that the rail system was insufficient to support the burgeoning mining industry. Through 1990 railroads spanned only 400 kilometers, carrying passengers and freight over two major routes. The main passenger route stretched from Barquisimeto to Puerto Cabello. This route also passed through the petrochemical complex at Morón. In 1988 the nation's trains, excluding the Caracas subway, carried 240,000 passengers. The second major rail line ran through the heavy mining area south of Ciudad Guayana.

Caracas also boasted an extremely modern subway system that first opened in 1982. Installed by a French company and managed under private service contracts, the Caracas Metro (C.A. Metro de Caracas--Cametro) was clean, punctual, safe, and financially sound in the late 1980s. Many analysts pointed to the fact that Cametro's employees were not public servants, and therefore not subject to the political patronage system, as the main reason for its success relative to other Venezuelan public-service companies. Construction of the Cametro system continued through 1990, and new lines were expected to open.

Water transport on lakes, rivers, and seas was fairly well developed. The National Port Institute (Instituto Nacional de Puertos--INP) managed the nation's nine major commercial ports, and various government entities administered scores of other ports. INP's ports, located on the various types of waterways, were traditionally the central shipping facilities. The growth of heavy industry in the 1980s permitted CVG-supervised ports, the largest being Puerto Ordaz, to challenge INP because of their control of heavy minerals exports. Nevertheless, INP ports still handled 90 percent of general cargo and almost all containerized traffic. The port of La Guaira, located in metropolitan Caracas, was the most important INP port, followed by Puerto Cabello and Maracaibo. Other ports on the Caribbean coast and on Lago de Maracaibo were typically specialized ports that served a particular industry.

Venezuelan ports--and INP ports in particular--suffered from extremely high costs, which were closely tied to the strength of the country's longshoremen's unions. A lack of modernization and expansion after the 1970s also contributed to low efficiency. In 1990 the government contemplated increasing the role of the private sector in port management to expand port development, a measure that was likely to spark conflicts with organized labor. The Venezuelan Shipping Company and dozens of private companies provided merchant marine services, including oil tanker service worldwide.

Air transportation was commonplace in Venezuela, which flew nearly 15.7 million total passengers in 1988. Eleven international airports served the nation, along with 36 domestic airports and an estimated 290 private airstrips. The Maiquetía International Airport, located twenty-one kilometers outside the Federal District of Caracas, was the principal international airport, handling about 40 percent of all passengers, 84 percent of air cargo, and as much as 90 percent of all international flights. The other leading international airports were located in Barcelona and Maracaibo. Venezuela International Airways (Venezolana Internacional de Aviación S.A.--VIASA), the government's international carrier, provided regular flights to the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, and South America. VIASA maintained a relatively good reputation and recorded annual profits through 1990. Two domestic carriers, the state-owned Venezuelan Airmail Line (Línea Aeropostal Venezolana--LAV) and the private Avensa corporation, furnished local air service. Beginning in the late 1980s, Avensa also flew a few international routes as well. Numerous air taxis flew to more remote areas. Twenty-seven international airlines flew regularly to Venezuela.

Data as of December 1990

BackgroundVenezuela 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.
LocationNorthern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana
Area(sq km)total: 912,050 sq km
land: 882,050 sq km
water: 30,000 sq km
Geographic coordinates8 00 N, 66 00 W
Land boundaries(km)total: 4,993 km
border countries: Brazil 2,200 km, Colombia 2,050 km, Guyana 743 km

Coastline(km)2,800 km

Climatetropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Pico Bolivar (La Columna) 5,007 m
Natural resourcespetroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, other minerals, hydropower, diamonds
Land use(%)arable land: 2.85%
permanent crops: 0.88%
other: 96.27% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)5,750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)1,233.2 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 8.37 cu km/yr (6%/7%/47%)
per capita: 313 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardssubject to floods, rockslides, mudslides; periodic droughts
Environment - current issuessewage 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; threat to the rainforest ecosystem from irresponsible mining operations
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed but not ratified:: none of the selected agreements
Geography - noteon major sea and air routes linking North and South America; Angel Falls in the Guiana Highlands is the world's highest waterfall
Population26,814,843 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 30.5% (male 4,157,194/female 4,022,595)
15-64 years: 64.3% (male 8,480,872/female 8,754,620)
65 years and over: 5.2% (male 620,657/female 778,905) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 25.5 years
male: 24.8 years
female: 26.2 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)1.508% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)20.61 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)5.12 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-0.42 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 93% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 21.54 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 25.1 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 17.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 73.61 years
male: 70.54 years
female: 76.83 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)2.48 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Venezuelan(s)
adjective: Venezuelan
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

Country nameconventional long form: Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
conventional short form: Venezuela
local long form: Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela
local short form: Venezuela
Government typefederal republic
Capitalname: Caracas
geographic coordinates: 10 30 N, 66 56 W
time difference: UTC-4.5 (half an hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions23 states (estados, singular - estado), 1 capital district* (distrito capital), 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, Vargas, Yaracuy, Zulia
note: the federal dependency consists of 11 federally controlled island groups with a total of 72 individual islands

Legal systemopen, adversarial court system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President Hugo CHAVEZ Frias (since 3 February 1999); Executive Vice President Ramon Alonzo CARRIZALEZ Rengifo (since 4 January 2008); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Hugo CHAVEZ Frias (since 3 February 1999); Executive Vice President Ramon Alonzo CARRIZALEZ Rengifo (since 4 January 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for unlimited reelection); election last held 3 December 2006 (next to be held in December 2012)
note: in 1999, a National Constituent Assembly drafted a new constitution that increased the presidential term to six years; an election was subsequently held on 30 July 2000 under the terms of this constitution; in 2009, a national referendum approved the elimination of term limits on all elected officials, including the presidency
election results: Hugo CHAVEZ Frias reelected president; percent of vote - Hugo CHAVEZ Frias 62.9%, Manuel ROSALES 36.9%
Legislative branchunicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (167 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms; three seats reserved for the indigenous peoples of Venezuela)
elections: last held 4 December 2005 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - pro-government 167 (MVR 114, PODEMOS 15, PPT 11, indigenous 2, other 25), opposition 0; total seats by party as of 16 December 2009 - pro-government 156 (PSUV 141, PPT 5, PCV 4, other 6), PODEMOS 6, FPH 5

Judicial branchSupreme Tribunal of Justice or Tribuna Suprema de Justicia (32 magistrates are elected by the National Assembly for a single 12-year term)

Political pressure groups and leadersFEDECAMARAS, a conservative business group; VECINOS groups; Venezuelan Confederation of Workers or CTV (labor organization dominated by the Democratic Action)
International organization participationCaricom (observer), CDB, FAO, G-15, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA, LAS (observer), Mercosur (associate), MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, PetroCaribe, RG, UN, UNASUR, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Flag descriptionthree 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 eight white five-pointed stars centered in the blue band

Economy - overviewVenezuela remains highly dependent on oil revenues, which account for roughly 90% of export earnings, about 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. Fueled by high oil prices, record government spending helped to boost GDP by about 10% in 2006, 8% in 2007, and nearly 5% in 2008. 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% in 2007 and more than 30% in 2008. Imports also have jumped significantly. Declining oil prices in the latter part of 2008 are expected to undermine the govenment's ability to continue the high rate of spending. President Hugo CHAVEZ in 2008 continued efforts to increase the government's contol of the economy by nationalizing firms in the cement and steel sectors. In 2007, he nationalized firms in the petroleum, communications, and electricity sectors. In July 2008, CHAVEZ implemented by decree a number of laws that further consolidate and centralize authority over the economy through his plan for "21st Century Socialism."
GDP (purchasing power parity)$356.3 billion (2008 est.)
$340 billion (2007 est.)
$314.2 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$319.4 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)4.8% (2008 est.)
8.2% (2007 est.)
9.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$13,500 (2008 est.)
$13,100 (2007 est.)
$12,300 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 3.8%
industry: 37.6%
services: 58.6% (2008 est.)
Labor force12.59 million (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 13%
industry: 23%
services: 64% (1997 est.)
Unemployment rate(%)7.4% (2008 est.)
8.5% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)37.9% (end 2005 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 1.7%
highest 10%: 32.7% (2006)
Distribution of family income - Gini index48.2 (2003)
49.5 (1998)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)19.7% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $94.14 billion
expenditures: $97.69 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)30.4% (2008 est.)
18.7% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$79.91 billion (31 December 2008)
$63.18 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$10.93 billion (31 December 2008)
$8.889 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$62.42 billion (31 December 2008)
$50.24 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA (31 December 2008)
$NA (31 December 2007)
$8.251 billion (31 December 2006)
Economic aid - recipient$48.66 million (2005)

Public debt(% of GDP)13.8% of GDP (2008 est.)
43.1% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productscorn, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, bananas, vegetables, coffee; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish
Industriespetroleum, construction materials, food processing, textiles; iron ore mining, steel, aluminum; motor vehicle assembly

Industrial production growth rate(%)2.5% (2008 est.)

Current account balance$39.21 billion (2008 est.)
$20 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$93.54 billion (2008 est.)
$69.17 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)petroleum, bauxite and aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products, basic manufactures
Exports - partners(%)US 40.7%, Netherlands Antilles 7.8%, China 4.7% (2008)
Imports$48.1 billion (2008 est.)
$45.46 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials
Imports - partners(%)US 26.3%, Colombia 12.7%, Brazil 10.3%, China 7%, Mexico 4.8% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$42.3 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$33.48 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$47.03 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$43.33 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$41.38 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$43.96 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$16.62 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$13.81 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Exchange ratesbolivars (VEB) per US dollar - 2.147 (2008 est.), 2,147 (2007), 2,147 (2006), 2,089.8 (2005), 1,891.3 (2004)
note: on 1 January 2008 Venezuela revalued its currency with 1000 old bolivares equal to 1 new bolivar

Currency (code)bolivar (VEB)

Telephones - main lines in use6.304 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular27.084 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: modern and expanding
domestic: domestic satellite system with 3 earth stations; recent substantial improvement in telephone service in rural areas; substantial increase in digitalization of exchanges and trunk lines; installation of a national interurban fiber-optic network capable of digital multimedia services; combined fixed and mobile-cellular telephone subscribership 125 per 100 persons
international: country code - 58; submarine cable systems provide connectivity to the Caribbean, Central and South America, and US; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 PanAmSat; participating with Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia in the construction of an international fiber-optic network (2007)
Internet country code.ve
Internet users7.167 million (2008)
Airports406 (2009)
Pipelines(km)extra heavy crude 980 km; gas 5,036 km; oil 6,695 km; refined products 1,484 km; unknown 141 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 96,155 km
paved: 32,308 km
unpaved: 63,847 km (2002)

Ports and terminalsLa Guaira, Maracaibo, Puerto Cabello, Punta Cardon
Military branchesNational Bolivarian Armed Forces (Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana, FANB): National Bolivarian Army (Ejercito Nacional Bolivariano, ENB), Bolivarian National Navy (Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (FANB); includes Naval Infantry, Coast Guard, Naval Aviation), Bolivarian National Military Aviation (Aviacion Militar Nacional Bolivariana, AMNB), Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivaria, GNB), Bolivarian National Militia (Milicia Nacional Bolivariana, MNB) (2009)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18-30 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; 30-month conscript service obligation; all citizens 18-50 years old are obligated to register for military service (2008)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 6,647,124
females age 16-49: 6,801,133 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 5,391,582
females age 16-49: 5,873,563 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 276,051
female: 274,162 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)1.2% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalclaims 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

Trafficking in personscurrent situation: Venezuela is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; Venezuelan women and girls are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation, lured from the nation's interior to urban and tourist areas; child prostitution in urban areas and child sex tourism in resort destinations appear to be growing; Venezuelan women and girls are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation to Western Europe, Mexico, and Caribbean destinations
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Venezuela is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List, up from Tier 3, as it showed greater resolve to address trafficking through law enforcement measures and prevention efforts in 2007, although stringent punishment of offenders and victim assistance remain lacking (2008)
Electricity - production(kWh)113.3 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 31.7%
hydro: 68.3%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)83.02 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)540 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)1.651 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)2.643 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)760,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)2.182 million bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)99.38 billion bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)24.01 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)25.51 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)4.84 trillion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.7%; note - no country specific models provided (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS110,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths4,100 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93%
male: 93.3%
female: 92.7% (2001 census)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 12 years
male: 11 years
female: 12 years (2003)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)3.7% of GDP (2006)

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