Venezuela: Page 2 of 5
He remained the most powerful man in Venezuela until his death in 1935, although at times he ceded the Presidency to others. The gomecista dictatorship system largely continued under Eleazar López Contreras, but from 1941, under Isaías Medina Angarita, was relaxed, with the latter granting a range of reforms, including the legalization of all political parties. After World War II the globalization and heavy immigration from Southern Europe (mainly from Spain, Italy, Portugal and France) and poorer Latin American countries markedly diversified Venezuelan society.
In 1945 a civilian-military coup overthrew Medina Angarita and ushered in a three-year period of democratic rule under the mass membership Democratic Action, initially under Rómulo Betancourt, until Rómulo Gallegos won the Venezuelan presidential election, 1947 (generally believed to be the first free and fair elections in Venezuela). Gallegos governed until overthrown by a military junta led by Marcos Pérez Jiménez and Gallegos' Defense Minister Carlos Delgado Chalbaud in the 1948 Venezuelan coup d'état.
Pérez Jiménez was the most powerful man in the junta (though Chalbaud was its titular President), and was suspected of being behind the death in office of Chalbaud, who died in a bungled kidnapping in 1950. When the junta unexpectedly lost the election it held in 1952, it ignored the results and Pérez Jiménez was installed as President, where he remained until 1958.
The military dictator Pérez Jiménez was forced out on 23 January 1958. In an effort to consolidate the young democracy, the major political parties (with the notable exception of the Communist Party of Venezuela) signed the Punto Fijo Pact. Democratic Action and COPEI would dominate the political landscape for four decades.
The 1960s saw substantial guerilla movements, including the Armed Forces of National Liberation and the Revolutionary Left Movement, which had split from Democratic Action in 1960. Most of these movements lay down their arms under Rafael Caldera's presidency (1969–74); Caldera had won the 1968 election for COPEI, being the first time a party other than Democratic Action took the presidency through a democratic election.
The election of Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1973 coincided with the 1973 oil crisis, which saw Venezuela's income explode as oil prices soared, while oil industries were nationalized in 1976. This led to massive increases in public spending, but also increases in external debts, which continued into the 1980s when the collapse of oil prices during the 1980s crippled the Venezuelan economy. As the government started to devalue the currency in February 1983 in order to face its financial obligations, Venezuelans' real standard of living fell dramatically. A number of failed economic policies and increasing corruption in government led to rising poverty and crime, worsening social indicators, and increased political instability.
Economic crisis in the 1980s and 1990s led to a political crisis which saw hundreds dead in the Caracazo riots of 1989, two attempted coups in 1992, and the impeachment of President Carlos Andrés Pérez (re-elected in 1988) for corruption in 1993. Coup leader Hugo Chávez was pardoned in March 1994 by president Rafael Caldera, with a clean slate and his political rights intact.
A collapse in confidence in the existing parties saw Chávez elected President in 1998, and the subsequent launch of a "Bolivarian Revolution", beginning with a 1999 Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution of Venezuela.
In April 2002, Chávez was briefly ousted from power in the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt following popular demonstrations by his opposers, but he was returned to power after two days as a result of popular demonstrations by his supporters and actions by the military.
Chávez also remained in power after an all-out national strike that lasted more than two months from December 2002 to February 2003, including a strike/lockout in the state oil company PDVSA. The strike produced severe economic dislocation, with the country's GDP falling 27% during the first four months of 2003, and costing the oil industry $13.3bn. Capital flight before and during the strike led to the reimposition of currency controls (which had been abolished in 1989), managed by the CADIVI agency. In the subsequent decade the government was forced into several currency devaluations. These devaluations have done little to improve the situation of the Venezuelan people who rely on imported products or locally produced products that depend on imported inputs while dollar denominated oil sales account for the vast majority of Venezuela's exports.
Chávez survived several further political tests, including an August 2004 recall referendum. He was elected for another term in December 2006 and re-elected for a third term in October 2012. However, he was never sworn in for his third period, due to medical complications. Chávez died on 5 March 2013 after a nearly-two-year bout with cancer. The election that took place on Sunday, 14 April was the first since Chávez took office in 1998 in which his name did not appear on the ballot.
Nicolás Maduro is the interim president of Venezuela since 8 March 2013. The Democratic Union of Venezuela (the government opposition cartel) contests his appointment as a violation of the constitution. However, the Supreme Court of Venezuela (TSJ) rules that under Venezuela’s Constitution, Nicolas Maduro is the Interim President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and was invested as such by the Venezuelan Congress (Asamblea Nacional).
Venezuela is located in the north of South America; geologically its mainland rests on the South American Plate. It has a total area of 916,445 square kilometres (353,841 sq mi) and a land area of 882,050 square kilometres (340,560 sq mi), making it the 33rd largest country. The territory it controls lies between latitudes 0° and 13°N, and longitudes 59° and 74°W.
Shaped roughly like a triangle, the country has a 2,800 km (1,700 mi) coastline in the north, which includes numerous islands in the Caribbean Sea, and in the northeast borders the northern Atlantic Ocean. Most observers describe Venezuela in terms of four fairly well-defined topographical regions: the Maracaibo lowlands in the northwest, the northern mountains extending in a broad east-west arc from the Colombian border along the northern Caribbean coast, the wide plains in central Venezuela, and the Guiana Highlands in the southeast.
The northern mountains are the extreme northeastern extensions of South America's Andes mountain range reach. Pico Bolívar, the nation's highest point at 4,979 m (16,335 ft), lies in this region. To the south, the dissected Guiana Highlands contains the northern fringes of the Amazon Basin and Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall as well as tepuis, large table-like mountains. The country's center is characterized by the llanos, which are extensive plains that stretch from the Colombian border in the far west to the Orinoco River delta in the east. The Orinoco, with its rich alluvial soils, binds the largest and most important river system of the country; it originates in one of the largest watersheds in Latin America. The Caroní and the Apure are other major rivers.
Venezuela borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south. Caribbean islands such as Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Curaçao, Aruba and the Leeward Antilles lie near the Venezuelan coast. Venezuela has territorial disputes with Guyana (formerly United Kingdom), largely concerning the Essequibo area, and with Colombia concerning the Gulf of Venezuela. In 1895, after years of diplomatic attempts to solve the border dispute, from Venezuela, the dispute over the Essequibo River border flared up, it was submitted to a "neutral" commission (composed of British, American and Russian representatives and without a direct Venezuelan representative), which in 1899 decided mostly against Venezuela's claim.
Venezuela's most significant natural resources are petroleum and natural gas, iron ore, gold and other minerals. It also has large areas of arable land and water.
Venezuela is entirely located in the tropics over the Equator to around 12° N. Its climate varies from humid low-elevation plains, where average annual temperatures range as high as 35 °C (95.0 °F), to glaciers and highlands (the páramos) with an average yearly temperature of 8 °C (46.4 °F). Annual rainfall varies between 430 mm (16.9 in) in the semiarid portions of the northwest to over 1,000 mm (39.4 in) in the Orinoco Delta of the far east and the Amazonian Jungle in the south. The precipitation level is lower in the period from November to April and later in the year from August to October. These periods are referred to as Hot-Humid and Cold-Dry seasons. Other charasteristic of the climate is this variation throughout the country by the existence of a mountain range called "Cordillera de la Costa" which crosses the country from east to west. The majority of the population lives in these mountains.
The country falls into four horizontal temperature zones based primarily on elevation, having Tropical, Dry, Temperate with Dry Winters, and Polar (Alpine tundra) climates, amongst others. In the tropical zone—below 800 meters or 2,625 feet—temperatures are hot, with yearly averages ranging between 26 and 28 °C (78.8 and 82.4 °F). The temperate zone ranges between 800 and 2,000 meters (2,625 and 6,562 ft) with averages from 12 to 25 °C (53.6 to 77 °F); many of Venezuela's cities, including the capital, lie in this region. Colder conditions with temperatures from 9 to 11 °C (48.2 to 51.8 °F) are found in the cool zone between 2,000 and 3,000 meters (6,562 and 9,843 ft), especially in the Venezuelan Andes, where Pastureland and permanent snowfield with yearly averages below 8 °C (46 °F) cover land above 3,000 meters (9,843 ft) in the páramos.
The highest temperature recorded was 42 °C (108 °F) in Machiques, and the lowest temperature recorded was −11 °C (12 °F), it has been reported from an uninhabited high altitude at Páramo de Piedras Blancas (Mérida state), even though no official reports exist, there is knowledge of lower temperatures in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Mérida.
Venezuela lies within the Neotropic ecozone; large portions of the country were originally covered by moist broadleaf forests. One of seventeen megadiverse countries, Venezuela's habitats range from the Andes mountains in the west to the Amazon Basin rainforest in the south, via extensive llanos plains and Caribbean coast in the center and the Orinoco River Delta in the east. They include xeric scrublands in the extreme northwest and coastal mangrove forests in the northeast. Its cloud forests and lowland rainforests are particularly rich.
Animals of Venezuela are diverse and include manatees, Amazon river dolphins, and Orinoco crocodiles, which have been reported to reach up to 6.6 m (22 ft) in length. Venezuela hosts a total of 1,417 bird species, 48 of which are endemic. Important birds include ibises, ospreys, kingfishers, and the yellow-orange Venezuelan Troupial, the national bird. Notable mammals include the Giant Anteater, jaguar, and the capybara, the world's largest rodent. More than half of Venezuelan avian and mammalian species are found in the Amazonian forests south of the Orinoco.
For the fungi, an account was provided by R.W.G. Dennis which has been digitized and the records made available on-line as part of the Cybertruffle Robigalia database. That database includes nearly 3,900 species of fungi recorded from Venezuela, but is far from complete, and it is likely that the true total number of fungal species already known from Venezuela is higher. The true total number of fungal species occurring in Venezuela, including species not yet recorded, is likely to be far higher, given the generally accepted estimate that only about 7% of all fungi worldwide have so far been discovered.
Among plants of Venezuela, over 25,000 species of orchids are found in the country's cloud forest and lowland rainforest ecosystems. These include the flor de mayo orchid (Cattleya mossiae), the national flower. Venezuela's national tree is the araguaney, whose characteristic lushness after the rainy season led novelist Rómulo Gallegos to name it [l]a primavera de oro de los araguaneyes (the golden spring of the araguaneyes).
Venezuela is among the top twenty countries in terms of endemism. Among its animals, 23% of reptilian and 50% of amphibian species are endemic. Although