General Information about Venezuela

The official name is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela). It has had its current official name since 2000. It is located in the north of South America. The area is 916.5 thousand km2, the population is 25.1 million people. (2002). The official language is Spanish. The capital is the city of Caracas (4.5 million people, 2000). National holiday – Independence Day July 5 (1811). The monetary unit is the bolivar.

Member of the UN (since 1945), OPEC (since 1960), Non-Aligned Movement (since 1989), OAS (since 1948), LAES (since 1975), LAAI, Andean Community of Nations (since 1973), Association of Caribbean States (since 1994) and others

Population of Venezuela

During 1990-2002, the population increased from 19.5 million to 25.1 million people. According to Countryaah, the average annual population growth in 2002 was 1.52%. Natural increase – 1.53%, migration outflow – 0.01%. Population growth rate in the 1990s and the beginning of the new decade decreased: in 1990-95 – 2.3%, in 1995-2000 – 2.0%, in 2000 – 1.9%. Birth rate 20.22%, mortality 4.91%, infant mortality 24.58 people. per 1000 newborns. Average life expectancy is 73.6 years, incl. men 70.5, women 76.8.

Men 12.6 million people (50.2%), women 12.5 million people. (49.8%). The population aged 0-14 years – 35%, 15-64 years – 61%, 65 years and older – 4%. 87% of the population lives in cities, 13% in rural areas.

The retirement age is 60. In 2001, 6.4% of the adult population was illiterate.

In 2000 ca. 67% of the population were mestizos, 21% were whites, 10% were blacks, and 2% were Indians. There is a tendency to reduce the proportion of the country’s indigenous population and to increase the proportion of other ethnic groups (in 1993: 65% – mestizos, 20% – whites, 8% – blacks, 7% – Indians).

Language – Spanish (official language), numerous local dialects are considered the official language of the indigenous population (approximately 200 thousand people). English is taught as a compulsory second language in higher education. 96% of the population are Catholics, 2% are Protestants.

History of Venezuela

Since ancient times, the territory of present-day Venezuela was inhabited by numerous Indian tribes, who were at various stages of the primitive communal system, their main occupations were hunting, fishing, and agriculture. In August 1498, Venezuela was discovered by H. Columbus. In 1499–1500, during a voyage along the coast of Venezuela, A. de Ojeda, Amerigo Vespucci and their companions saw pile settlements near Lake Maracaibo that resembled Venice, hence the name of the country, “Little Venice”. The captured lands were distributed among the conquistadors along with the Indian population, who fell into serfdom or were sold into slavery. The basis of the economy of the colony was pearl fishing, gold and copper mining. Plantation farms were created that cultivated sugar cane, cocoa, and tobacco. They were based on the labor of Indians and Negro slaves imported from Africa. In the 2nd floor. 17th century coffee became one of the main export crops. Before the beginning 18th century the territory of Venezuela was subordinate to the Spanish colonial administration of Santo Domingo, in 1718 it became part of the viceroyalty of New Granada, and in 1777 it became a captaincy general. The authorities of the metropolis did not allow representatives of the local (Creole) nobility, merchants, petty bureaucrats and the intelligentsia to manage. Economic activity was fettered by numerous prohibitions. All this caused a desire to free themselves from colonialism. On April 19, 1810, the patriots raised an uprising, which served as the beginning of the War of Independence of the Spanish colonies. Its ideological inspirers and leaders were the outstanding continental figures Francisco de Miranda (1750-1816) and Simon Bolivar (1783-1830). The fight was long and hard. After the fall of the three Venezuelan republics, troops led by Bolivar in 1819 won a decisive victory over the Spaniards. Great Colombia was created, headed by Bolivar. After his death in 1830 the federation collapsed. Venezuela gained independence. The name of Bolivar, the national hero, the Liberator, is immortalized in the names of streets, squares, cities and even the country (Bolivia).

During the 19th – 1st third of the 20th centuries. in power, with rare exceptions, were generals who ruled by authoritarian methods, handing over the reins of power or overthrowing each other. It was an oligarchic-type republic, where the highest authorities were elected by a minority of citizens through a multi-stage procedure. Regimes of this kind are called caudillo (caudillo is a strong personality, a leader who enjoys unlimited power). In Venezuela, they survived with minor modifications until the middle. 1930s

A kind of record holder for the duration of continuous stay at the top of power, St. 25 years old, was the dictator H.V. Gomez (1908-35). The ideological framework of the regime was the concept of “democratic Caesarism”, or “necessary gendarme”. It was based on the thesis about the inferiority of individual peoples (including the Venezuelan one), their inability to self-govern. From this followed the historical inevitability of the emergence of a strong ruler (Caesar). He is the only one who is able to arouse a sense of respect for the hierarchy, overcome anarchy, establish the peace and order necessary for social progress. Caesar is closely connected with the people, but rises above them due to his inherent special qualities. It harmoniously combines democracy and autocracy, hence “democratic Caesarism”.

The discovery in 1916 of oil deposits and the beginning of their industrial development marked a turning point in the development of the country. This contributed to its transformation from agrarian to agro-industrial, turning into one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of black gold. The main national wealth – “black gold” – turned out to be in the hands of the international monopolies “Standard Oil” and “Royal Dutch-Shell”.

Along the way, the formation of the working class went on, the middle strata grew rapidly, and the prerequisites for democratization were created. The first open political action against the dictatorship was the Movement of 28, led by the intelligentsia. It was suppressed, but left a deep imprint in the memory of the people.

After the death of JV Gomez, a period of transition began. His successors, Generals E. López Contreras (1935–41) and I. Medina Angarita (1941–45), began to carry out measured democratization, combined with a containment of initiatives from below. In October 1945 this process was forcibly interrupted. A military-civilian junta, headed by the well-known politician R. Betancourt, came to power. During the period of the “three years” (1945–48), a new Constitution was approved, which proclaimed and guaranteed broad democratic rights and freedoms, for the first time in the history of the country, direct elections were held for the executive and legislative authorities, and a number of measures were taken to improve the material situation of the broad masses. Foreign oil monopolies lost a number of privileges, an additional tax on excess profits was introduced, and the state’s share in the income of companies increased. In November 1948, a triumvirate of young officers overthrew the legitimate president, R. Gallegos, and banned the activities of the ruling party. Gradually, the regime is transformed into the military-caesarist dictatorship of M. Perez Jimenez (1952–58).

On January 23, 1958, the dictatorship was overthrown under the leadership of the Patriotic Junta. This marked the starting point of a new stage in the development of the country. The foundation of representative democracy was laid, cemented by parties of social democratic and social Christian orientation. Severe tests fell on the lot of the authorities in the beginning. 1960s, when they were attacked from the right and left. These attacks were repulsed, relying on the support of broad sections of the population. The peak of the functioning of representative democracy came in the 1970s, when the multi-party system was transformed into a two-party system. Replacing each other, alternating at the helm of power, the ruling parties pursued a roughly similar course based on high oil revenues. Their skillful use ensured political stability and social peace, based on the cooperation of labor and capital. During these years, a powerful public sector was being created, and oil and gas were nationalized. Later, stagnation appeared. The monopoly of the parties, which appropriated to themselves the right to express the interests of all strata of society, caused discontent among the citizens. Corruption has become a truly national disaster.

The intentions of President K.A. Perez (1989-93) and his closest technocratic entourage to move from the petro-etatist to the neoliberal model of development ran into strong resistance from the establishment and various social strata and groups. The immediate response to the package of measures agreed with the IMF was a spontaneous riot in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods surrounding the major cities. It was followed by speeches by workers organized in trade unions. In a relatively short period of time, Venezuela has become a zone of social and political instability. In May 1993, for the first time in the history of Venezuela, a head of state was impeached. The erosion of representative democracy ended in its collapse.

In the wake of general discontent and a sharply deteriorating financial situation (the number of poor and beggars approached 70%) in February 1999, a former lieutenant colonel of the parachute special forces, 44-year-old U. Chavez, came to the helm of government. He made an unprecedented evolution. After a failed attempt to overthrow the legitimate president in 1992, a stay in prison and an amnesty, he created a legal political structure and adopted parliamentary methods of struggle. Chavez won a landslide victory in the December 1998 elections, winning the confidence of 60% of the electorate.

Chavez is a charismatic leader of a populist persuasion, formed under the influence of Bolívar’s ideas. He ascended to the top of the pyramid of power with ambitious plans for a radical transformation of the socio-economic foundations, the creation of a society of “social and participatory democracy.” In a short time, the “Bolivarians” carried out the restructuring of the political system, in 2000 they organized elections for all branches of government. Chavez was re-elected head of state with almost the same result.

People of Venezuela