Venezuelan Geography, Demographics, Politics, and Economy

Geography and Environment

Location: Northern South America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic.

President: Hugo Chavez (1999-Present) Elections slated for October 2012

Area:
Total: 912,050 sq km
Land: 882,050 sq km
Water:  30,000 sq km
Land use:
Arable Land: 2.85%
Permanent Crops: 0.88%
Other: 96.27%
Irrigated land: 5,800 sq km
Land Boundaries: 4,993 km
Borders with: Brazil, Colombia, and Guyana

Climate: Tropical – hot, humid; moderate in highlands

Natural Resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, various minerals, hydro-power, diamonds

Environmental issues:  sewage pollution in Lago De Valencia; oil and urban pollution in Lago de Maracaibo; deforestation; soil degradations; urban and industrial pollution particularly along the Caribbean coast; irresponsible mining operations threaten rainforest ecosystem

Society and Government

Population: 27,635,743 – 45th most populous country in the world
Age Structure:  
0 – 14: 29.5% (male 4,149,781/female 4,002,931)
15 – 64: 65.1% (male 8,846,945/female 9,130,561)
65 and older: 5.4% (male 665,436/female 840,089)
Median Age: 26.1 (male 25.4/female 26.8)

Ethnic Groups: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, indigenous people

Religions: Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%

Urbanization:
Urban Population: 93% of total population lives in urban centers
Rate of urbanization: 1.7% annual rate of change

Major Cities: Caracas (capital city) 3.051 million; Maracaibo 2.153 million; Valencia 1.738 million; Barquisimeto 1.159 million; Maracay 1.04 million

Maternal Mortality Rate: 68 deaths/100,00 live births
Infant Mortality Rate: total 20.62 deaths/1,00 live births (95th highest mortality rate in the world)
Life expectancy at birth: total 73.93 years (110 highest life expectancy rate in the world)

Literacy:
Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total Population: 93%
Male: 93.3%
Female: 92.7%

Government Type: federal republic
Administrative Division: 23 states, 1 capital district
Independence: July 5, 1811 (from Spain)
Constitution: December 30, 1999
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Current concerns: weakening democratic institutions, political polarization, politicized military, drug related violence (particularly along the border with Colombia).  The country’s over dependence on petroleum industry is also cause for concern given the constant price fluctuations and irresponsible mining operations.

Economy

Brief Overview: Highly dependent on oil revenues (accounts for 95% of export earnings, 55% of federal budget revenues, and 30% GDP).  Chavez working to increase government control of economy by nationalizing agribusiness, financial, construction, oil and steel firms.  The nationalizing of these firms has hurt private investment, reduced capacity for production, and slowed down exports of non-petroleum commodities.

GDP: $345.2 billion (35th highest GDP in the world)
Per Capita: $12,700 (92nd in the world)
Composition by sector: agriculture 4%, industry 36%, services 60%

Labor force: 13.11 million
By occupation: agriculture 4%, industry 36%, services 60%

Unemployment rate: 8.5%

Population below poverty line: 37.9%

Export Partners: US 38.7%, China 7.7%, India 4.8%, Cuba 4.1% ($65.79 billion a year)
Import Partners: US 26.6%, Colombia 11.4%, Brazil 9.6%, China 9.1% ($38.61 billion a year)

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