Venezuela - General Information
Venezuela is a country on the northern tropical Caribbean coast of South America. Venezuela borders Brazil to the south, Guyana to the east, and Colombia to the west. North of the Venezuelan coast lie the islands of Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Although the country lies wholly within the tropics, its climate varies from tropical humid to alpine, depending on the elevation, topography, and the direction and intensity of prevailing winds. Seasonal variations are marked less by temperature than by rainfall. Most of the country has a distinct rainy season; the rainy period (May through November) is commonly referred to as winter and the remainder of the year as summer.
A former Spanish colony, Venezuela is a Federal Republic. Historically, Venezuela has had territorial disputes with Guyana, largely concerning the Essequibo area, and with Colombia concerning the Gulf of Venezuela (Gulf of Coquibacoa according to Colombia). This issue is not yet resolved. Today, Venezuela is known widely for its petroleum industry, the environmental diversity of its territory, and its sheer natural beauty. It has been claimed that Christopher Columbus was so enthralled by Venezuela's landscape, when arriving to its coast in 1498, that he referred to the land as Tierra de Gracia (Land of Grace), which has become the country’s nickname.
The name "Venezuela" is believed to have originated from the cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, who together with Alonso de Ojeda led a 1499 naval expedition along the northwestern coast (known today as the Gulf of Venezuela). On reaching the Guajira Peninsula, the crew observed the distinctive stilt villages (palafitos) that the indigenous Aٌu people had built over the water. This reminded Vespucci of the city of Venice and as a result the region was named Venezuela, which means Little Venice. On the other hand, Spanish conquistador and geographer Martيn Fernلndez de Enciso, member of the same crew, says in his work Summa de Geografيa that the above mentioned population was called Veneciuela, and that it was built on a large, plain rock. According to this theory, the name Venezuela could be a native word. Nevertheless, the first account remains by far the most popular and accepted version of the origin of the country's name.
The country falls into four horizontal temperature zones based primarily on elevation. In the tropical zone--below 800 meters--temperatures are hot, with yearly averages ranging between 26؛ C and 28؛ C. The temperate zone ranges between 800 and 2,000 meters with averages from 12؛ C to 25؛ C; many of Venezuela's cities, including the capital, lie in this region. Colder conditions with temperatures from 9؛ C to 11؛ C are found in the cool zone between 2,000 and 3,000 meters. Pastureland and permanent snowfield with yearly averages below 8؛ C cover land above 3,000 in the high mountain areas known as the pلramos.
Simَn Bolيvar, El Libertador Venezuela was the site of one of the first permanent Spanish settlements in South America in 1522, and most of the territory eventually became part of the viceroyalty of New Granada. Parts of what is now eastern Venezuela became New Andalusia. After several unsuccessful uprisings, the country declared independence from Spain on July 5th 1811 under the leadership of its most famous native son, Simَn Bolيvar. Nevertheless, full control over Venezuelan territory was achieved after Bolivar, with the help of General José Antonio Pلez and especially the then General Grand Marshall Antonio José de Sucre, whose battle plan Bolيvar chose to follow, won the Battle of Carabobo on June 24th 1821, and after José Prudencio Padilla won the Naval Battle of Lake Maracaibo on July 24th 1823. New Granada's congress gave Bolيvar control of the Granadian army, he then led several countries to freedom and created a new republic called Colombia (also known as Great Colombia to differentiate it to the actual Republic of Colombia) consisting of what are now Colombia, Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela. He then led the army towards the south, liberating Peru and Bolivia (named after the Libertador) from the Spaniards. Antonio José de Sucre, who won many battles for Bolivar, was to become his natural successor, until he was murdered. Venezuela became, after the war of independence, along with Colombia and Ecuador, part of the Republic of Gran Colombia (Repْblica de Gran Colombia) until 1830, when the country separated through a rebellion led by Jose Antonio Pلez and declared itself a sovereign republic. Pلez became the first president of Venezuela.
Average yearly rainfall amounts in the lowlands and plains range from a semiarid 430 millimeters in the western part of the Caribbean coastal areas to around 1,000 millimeters in the Orinoco Delta. Rainfall in mountainous areas varies considerably; sheltered valleys receive little rain, but slopes exposed to the northeast trade winds experience heavy rainfall. Caracas averages 750 millimeters of precipitation annually, more than half of it falling from June through August.
Much of Venezuela's 19th- and early 20th-century history was characterized by political instability, political struggle and dictatorial rule. Following the death of Juan Vicente Gَmez in 1935 and the demise of caudillismo (authoritarian oligarchical rule), democratic struggles eventually forced the military to withdraw from direct involvement in national politics in 1958. Since that year, Venezuela has enjoyed an unbroken tradition of democratic civilian rule, though even this has not been without conflict.
Venezuela is member of the South American Community of Nations (SACN).
The National Assembly Building in downtown Caracas. The Venezuelan president is elected by a popular vote, with direct and universal suffrage, and functions as both head of state and head of government. The term of office is six years, and a president may be re-elected to a single consecutive term. The president appoints the vice-president and decides the size and composition of the cabinet and makes appointments to it with the involvement of the legislature. The president can ask the legislature to reconsider portions of laws he finds objectionable, but a simple parliamentary majority can override these objections.
The unicameral Venezuelan parliament is the National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional. Its 165 deputies, of which three are reserved for indigenous peoples, serve five-year terms and may be re-elected for a maximum of two additional terms. They are elected by popular vote through a combination of party lists and single member constituencies. The highest judicial body is the Supreme Tribunal of Justice or Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, whose magistrates are elected by parliament for a single 12-year term. The National Electoral Council (CNE) is in charge of electoral processes; it is formed by five main directors elected by the National Assembly.
Venezuela was the first modern country in the world that abolished the death penalty. It was abolished 1863.
New flag and new coat of arms Recent political change has resulted in the flag of Venezuela being changed by the addition of an eighth star, symbolizing Guyana's contributions to the independence of the nation. The coat of arms has been changed, with the horse facing to the left, as opposed to the right. It is claimed by opponents of the Chavez government that this tactic was motivated by its disregard for national patrimonies and desire to promote their political propaganda at the unnecessary cost of taxpayers' money and hunger. They point out, for instance, the not so subtle metaphor conveyed in that change of the direction of the horse in the coat arms.
Venezuela is subdivided into 23 states (estados), a Capital District (Distrito Capital) correspondent to the city of Caracas, and the Federal Dependencies (Dependencias Federales). The country is also divided into ten administrative regions (regiones administrativas), which were established by presidential decrees.
Main article: Geography of Venezuela Venezuela is home to a wide variety of landscapes, such as the north-easternmost extensions of the Andes mountains in the northwest and along the northern Caribbean coast, of which the highest point is the Pico Bolيvar at 4,981 m.
The center of the country is characterized by extensive plains known as the llanos that stretch from the Colombian border to the river delta of the Orinoco east. To the south are found the dissected Guiana Highlands, home to Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall, and the northern edge of Amazonia. This is a classical division, however.
The country can also be divided into nine geographical areas, some corresponding to the natural regions, one being the Andes Range. The Lake Maracaibo region comprises the lowlands near the Gulf of Venezuela. The Coro System, a mountainous block in the northern occidental territory, is the fount of several sierras and valleys. The Central Range is tied up with the coast and the hills surrounding Caracas, while the Eastern Range, separated from the Central by the Gulf of Cariaco, covers all of Sucre State and northern Monagas. The Llanos Region involves a third part of the country's area, above the Orinoco River. Under it, is the South Orinoco Region (the Guianas, above described). The Insular Region is formed by Nueva Esparta State and the Federal Dependencies. The last geographical region is the Deltaic System which forms a pantanous triangle, covering Delta Amacuro State, with the Atlantic platform branching off the coast.
The Orinoco River is the largest and most important river of the country, originating one of the biggest watersheds in Latin America. Other important rivers are the Caronي and the Apure.
The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, though more moderate in the highlands. The capital, Caracas is also the country's largest city. Other major cities include Maracaibo, Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracay, and Ciudad Guayana.
Venezuela is one of the seventeen megadiverse countries, for the great number of animal and vegetable species that habitate there.