The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (shortcut Venezuela in this profile) is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. Venezuela borders Guyana to the east, Brazil to the south, and Colombia to the west. On its coastline you find the Caribbean Sea. Its size is 916,445Â kmÂ² with an population of 26,414,816. Its capital is Caracas. The colors of the Venezuelan flag are yellow, blue and red, in that order: the yellow stands for land wealth, the blue for courage, and the red for independence from Spain in 1821. The official language is Spanish and the President is Hugo Chávez Frías.
Venezuela was first colonized by Spain in 1522. Administered by the Audiencia of Santo Domingo since the early 16th century, most of Venezuela became part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in the early 18th century, and was then reorganized as an autonomous Captaincy General starting in 1776. After a series of unsuccessful uprisings, Venezuela declared independence on July 5, 1811. This was the beginning of the Venezuelan War of Independence. Sovereignty was only attained after Simón Bolívar won the Battle of Carabobo on June 24, 1821. New Granada's congress gave Bolívar control of the army. With this army, he liberated several countries and founded Gran Colombia. Venezuela remained part of Gran Colombia until 1830, when a rebellion led by Páez allowed the proclamation of a new Republic of Venezuela and Páez became its first president. The 19th century was characterized by political turmoil and dictatorial rule. the death of Juan Vicente Gómez in 1935 and the demise of caudillismo (authoritarian rule), pro-democracy movements eventually forced the military to withdraw from direct involvement in national politics in 1958. Since then, Venezuela has had a series of democratically elected governments. During World War I large oil reserves where discovered which prompted an economic boom that lasted into the 1980s. After World War II the globalization and heavy immigration from Southern Europe (mainly from Spain, Italy, Portugal) and poorer Latin American countries markedly diversified Venezuelan society. The Venezuelan economy crippeled during the collapse of oil prices during the 1980s. In February 1992 Hugo Chávez, an army paratrooper, staged a coup d'état attempt seeking to overthrow the government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez. This failed and he was send to prison. After he was was acquitted in March 1994, he was elected president in 1998. In April 2002 he suffered a coup d'état, but he was returned to power after two days as a result of popular demonstrations in his favour and actions by the military. He was elected for another term in December 2006.
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The petroleum sector dominates Venezuela mixed economy, accounting for roughly a third of GDP, around 80% of exports and more than half of government revenues. Gold, diamonds and iron ore are mined as well. Venezuela contains some of the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world. Inflation has been a problem in the past but is expected to slow to 26% annually in 2009. Manufacturing contributed 17% of GDP in 2006. The manufacturing sector continues to increase dramatically at a rate of 26.93% annually. Venezuela manufactures and exports steel, aluminum, transport equipment, textiles, apparel, beverages, and foodstuffs. It produces cement, tires, paper, fertilizer, and assembles cars both for domestic and export markets. Agriculture accounts for approximately 3% of GDP, 10% of the labor force, and at least one-fourth of Venezuela's land area. Venezuela exports rice, corn, fish, tropical fruit, coffee, beef, and pork. The country is not self-sufficient in most areas of agriculture; Venezuela imports about two-thirds of its food needs. In 2002, U.S. firms exported $347 million worth of agricultural products, including wheat, corn, soybeans, soybean meal, cotton, animal fats, vegetable oils, and other items to make Venezuela one of the top two U.S. markets in South America. Thanks to petroleum exports, Venezuela usually posts a trade surplus. In recent years, nonpetroleum exports have been growing rapidly but still constitute only about one-fourth of total exports. The United States is Venezuela's leading trade partner although Brazil is expected to surpass the U.S. by 2011. During 2002, the United States exported $4.4 billion in goods to Venezuela, making it the 25th-largest market for the U.S. Including petroleum products, Venezuela exported $15.1 billion in goods to the U.S., making it its 14th-largest source of goods.
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The Venezuelan president is elected by a vote with direct and universal suffrage, and functions as both head of state and head of government. There are currently two major blocs of political parties in Venezuela: the incumbent leftist bloc United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), its major allies Fatherland for All (PPT) and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), and the opposition bloc led by A New Era (UNT) together with its allied parties Project Venezuela, Justice First, Movement for Socialism (Venezuela) and others. On 23 November 2008 the ruling political party, PSUV, won the elections in 18 out of the 23 states and over 80% of the municipalities.
Throughout most of the 20th century, Venezuela maintained friendly relations with most Latin American and Western nations. Relations between Venezuela and the United States government worsened in 2002, after the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt during which the U.S. government recognized the short-lived interim presidency of Pedro Carmona. Correspondingly, ties to various Latin American and Middle Eastern countries not allied to the U.S. have strengthened. Globally, it seeks a "multi-polar" world based on strengthened ties among Third World countries.
The long-standing close diplomatic relationship between the U.S and Venezuela progressively worsened during the George W. Bush administration. It showed signs of improvement in 2009 with the election of the new US President Barack Obama, including the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in June 2009, which had been broken off in September 2008.
Participation in international Organizations
Venezuela is member of the United Nations and is participating in nearly all sub organizations within the UN. Venezuela is actively working in the Mercosur trade bloc to push increased trade and energy integration .
Venezuela has longstanding border disputes with Colombia and Guyana but seeks to resolve them peacefully. Bilateral commissions have been established by Venezuela and Colombia to address a range of pending issues, including resolution of the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Venezuela. Relations with Guyana are complicated by Venezuela's claim to roughly three-quarters of Guyana's territory. Since 1987 , the two countries have held exchanges on the boundary under the "good offices" of the United Nations. The most pressing dispute involves Venezuela's claim to all of Guyana west of the Essequibo River; a maritime boundary dispute with Colombia in the Gulf of Venezuela is less of a priority. The Chávez administration was making moves to normalize these situations by moving towards repudiating Venezuela's outstanding territorial claims, but has said it will now review this process after the government of Colombia announced it was considering allowing the US military to build a base on disputed territory near the current Venezuelan border. In March 2009 Chávez criticised the ICC for issuing a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Chávez said that the ICC "has no power to make a decision against a sitting president, but does so because it is an African country, the third world". He asked why the ICC didn't order the arrest of George W. Bush or of the President of Israel.