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State

Capital

Venezuela

Caracas

Currency unit

Bolivar

Connections

Amazonia

Democracy

Poverty

South America

Sovereignty

Spanish Empire

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

History

Venezuela was seen by Columbus in 1498 on his third voyage.

The Indian villages of Maracaibo were seen in 1499 and reminded Alonso de Ojeda of Venice, hence the name: Little Venice. Settlement by Spaniards began in 1523. But the Spaniards did not penetrate the interior until later and the country was controlled from Santo Domingo and later from Bogota. The coast was disputed with the Dutch (who captured and ruled the islands of Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire) and the English (who captured and ruled Trinidad). The whole country was only weakly controlled by Spain. There was a society of Spanish speakers which included the elite and a mixed race class of Mestizos as well as black slaves and the Indians of the interior.

Independence movements gained power during the Napoleonic wars when Spain itself had been conquered. The war of independence which lasted for ten years destroyed much of the country. From 1821 to 1830 Venezuela was part of Greater Colombia with Ecuador and Colombia. Venezuela broke away in 1830. There followed a period of authoritarian government dominated by the land owning class. Dictatorships and military rule were common. There were several civil wars. During the first half of the 20th century there was a series of strong military dictators. The situation was similar to several of the Central American states in recent times. Oil was first exploited in the 1930s.

Only with the oil wealth did the country become a modern state. Modern politics began after the second world war. However the last military dictatorship, of Perez Jiminez, was from 1948 until 1958. Since then there have been governments elected constitutionally and parties have alternated in office. Military coups since then have been unsuccessful which suggests that the country has become less vulnerable to military takeover. The wealth from oil, especially since 1973, paid for national development including education but increasing poverty is reversing that. There is a not very active dispute with Guyana inherited from the dispute with Britain. A non-military regime has less need to activate this dispute.

Languages

Spanish

Amerindian langs.

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Politics

The Presidency and ruling party has changed regularly since 1958. Military takeover is now thought unlikely. But the fall in oil prices after a boom period put strains on the political system. There is a rapidly growing population which is a potential instability if people continue to flock to the capital without jobs. There was an attempted coup in early 1992, but it did not show much chance of success. Another attempted coup, with fighting, in November 1992 indicated growing instability. In 1993 the president was made to resign after accusations of corruption, then under house arrest: a useful precedent.

Hardly anyone voted (20% in Caracas in the 1993 election) which suggests the people felt the existing political parties were in fact no more than an oligarchy of the rich. As in the United States voter apathy implied that democracy was not the right word for the system.

The recent president, Hugo Chavez, had been earlier imprisoned for an attempted military coup, and on election brought in a new constitution. He said his intention was to give more influence to ordinary people. He calls his policy the Bolivarian Revolution. However, others feared he just the latest in a line of Caudillos. His meetings with Fidel Castro, Muammar Ghadafi and Saddam Hussein create hostility with the US. His alliance with Evo Morales in Bolivia threatens the US power in South America.

In April 2002 there were demonstrations (probably by the wealthy, prompted by the US) against his rule and several people were killed. The military moved to make him resign. Two days later he was back after demonstrations in the streets.

In December 2002 bigger demonstrations were seen on the streets. Does this show the US using the same techniques employed against Salvador Allende in Chile? Chavez did not resign.

A petition for a recall referendum was accepted by the Supreme Court in June 2004. Chavez was re-elected by a large margin. What will the US try next? He has already survived the Perkins technique.

In January 2007 he was voted powers of governing by decree for 18 months by the Assembly. As the opposition boycotted the last assembly elections he has 100% support in the assembly.

Chavez is reported to be trying to create a one party state. Is he?

In December 2007 he called a referendum to change the constitution and allow the president to have more terms. This looked ominously like an attempt to make himself president for life with a Single Party.

There seemed to be genuine local opposition to this and the referendum was lost with 51% to the opposition and 49% for.

Chavez was very hostile to the United States and all its works. No doubt he believed that US would like to see him out of office - dead or alive.

His death was announced on 5 March 2013.

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

Oil country, rich while oil prices remain high, member of OPEC. But the oil prices declined after the 1970s boom. Was the profit sensibly invested? No, of course not.

Now oil prices are high again and Chavez seems determined to let the poor see the benefit. The US government does not like this.

The United States wants the introduction of a free market economy. Will this increase poverty still more? If so, instability is likely.

Hugo Chavez has reactivated OPEC (founded by Venezuela) which helped to bring about the rise in oil price during the year 2000.

He is sending cheap oil to Cuba in return for Cuban doctors and has offered it to the poor of the United States for winter heating. He seems likely to build up a bloc of countries indebted to his generosity. He has plans to build a gas pipeline to cover the whole of South America.

At a recent price of oil ($120+ per barrel) the reserves of very heavy oil become economic to exploit (they need refining to be able to use). Chavez claims that this would give Venezuela larger reserves than Saudi Arabia.

Chavez probably illustrates the idea that democracy and oil production don't go together. As long as the price is high he can indulge in many policies that might be opposed if taxpayers had to finance them.

Is the non-oil economy successful? There are reports of shortages of consumer products, and interference in the price mechanism. Chavez appeared not to understand economics.

The legacy of Chavez. http://truth-out.org/news/item/14978-vaya-con-dios-hugo-chavez-mi-amigo"

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

The heavy oil would be very polluting if exploited. As an oil supplier Venezuela is a large contributor to carbon outputs and climate change.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

Better than many other Latin American countries.

However, the May 2007 cancelling of television broadcast licences for tv stations that broadcast opposition propaganda suggests growing centralisation of media control.

Climate effects

One degree
Danger of Caribbean hurricanes

Two degrees
Loss of coastal cities

Last revised 6/03/13


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