Brief History of Venezuela:
Venezuela was inhabited by tribal peoples for thousands of years prior to the Spanish arriving. In 1522, Nueva Toledo became the first permanent Spanish settlement in South America. However, Venezuela was a somewhat neglected colony, as the Spanish were busy mining gold and becoming rich off of other more profitable lands.
In the late 1700s, Venezuelans began to want independence from Spain. Led by patriot Simon Bolivar, Venezuela, together with Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador, broke free of Spain and created the Republic of Gran Colombia in 1821. In 1830, Venezuela became a separate independent nation.
Much of Venezuela's history has been marred with dictatorship and military governments. Today the country is led by Hugo Chavez. He has implemented socialism to the extreme, weakening the democracy that the country had achieved by the late 20th century.
The Geography of Venezuela
Total Size: 912,050 square km
Size Comparison: slightly more than twice the size of California
Geographical Coordinates: 8 00 N, 66 00 W
World Region or Continent: South America
General Terrain: Andes Mountains and Maracaibo Lowlands in northwest; central plains (llanos); Guiana Highlands in southeast
Geographical Low Point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
Geographical High Point: Pico Bolivar (La Columna) 5,007 m
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands
Major cities: CARACAS (capital) 3.051 million; Maracaibo 2.153 million; Valencia 1.738 million; Barquisimeto 1.159 million; Maracay 1.04 million (2009)
The People of Venezuela
Type of Government: federal republic
Languages Spoken: Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects
Independence: 5 July 1811 (from Spain)
National Holiday: Independence Day, 5 July (1811)
Religions: nominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%
National Symbol: troupial (bird)
National Anthem or Song: Gloria al bravo pueblo (Glory to the Brave Nation)
Economy of Venezuela
Major Industries: petroleum, construction materials, food processing, textiles; iron ore mining, steel, aluminum; motor vehicle assembly
Agricultural Products: corn, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, bananas, vegetables, coffee; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish
Natural Resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, other minerals, hydropower, diamonds
Major Exports: petroleum, bauxite and aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products, basic manufactures
Major Imports: raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials
Currency: bolivar (VEB)
National GDP: $374,100,000,000
** Source for population (2012 est.) and GDP (2011 est.) is CIA World Factbook.
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