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Country Profile: Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela)

1. Geography
Area: 912,050 sq.km.; about 80% of the population lives along the Caribbean coastal belt in the north; the centre and south are grasslands and tropical forest.
Population: 24,169,722 in 2000; 28,715,855 in 2010; 34,775,110 in 2025
Capital: Caracas (4,200,000)
Other major cities: Maracaibo (1.8m); Valencia (1.48m); Maracay (1,075,000)

2. Peoples
Venezuelans: 87.2%
Foreigners: 11.3%
Amerindians: 1.5%
Literacy: 90.9%
Official language: Spanish

3. Economy
One of the world’s largest oil producers. About 33% of the GDP and 80% of export earnings come from oil. Falling oil prices in the 1980s, unwise government spending, a bloated civil sector and widespread corruption by the rich elite combined to impoverish ¾ of the population. A declining tourist sector and natural disasters (20US billion damage in 1999) conspire against economic diversification and stability.
Exports: oil, non-oil
Main export destinations: US 57.4%, Brazil 4.7%, Canada 3.4%, Spain 3.4%, Colombia 2.8%
Imports: non-oil, oil
Main import origins: US 34.1%, Colombia 10.4%, Italy 4.6%, Brazil 4.5%, Germany 3.1%
Currency: Bolviar (Bs)
Bs per $: 1,401 (end 2002)
GDP $124.9billion
GDP per head 5,070
Average annual growth: 1.3% (1991-2001)

4. Politics
Independent from Spain as part of Gran Colombia in 1821; and as a separate state in 1830. A succession of revolutions and harsh dictatorships ended in 1958. Stable democracy for decades until economic stress and disillusionment with corrupt government provoked a number of civilian riots and political coup attempts led by an army colonel who was elected president in 1998 on a platform of anti-corruption and economic reform. Since then government (including the constitution) has been trimmed, empowering the authoritarian-style President. Many hope that political stability and a streamlined government will lead to positive socio-economic changes. A new constitution and restructured national assembly was approved in a referendum in 2000. In December 2006 Hugo Chavez won a new presidential election, voted into power for six years. A harsh ally of Washington, he is using the country's oil wealth to solidify his power base. However, Western oil companies are concerned that proposed nationalisation of oil assets might harm their businesses.

5. Religions
Christian: 22,876,642 adherents (94.65% of population)
Spiritist: 386,716 adherents (1.60% of population)
Non-religious: 362,546 adherents (1.50% of population)
Traditional ethnic: 217,527 adherents (0.90% of population)
Baha’i: 145,018 adherents (0.60% of population)
Muslim: 84,594 adherents (0.35% of population)
Jewish: 48,339 adherents (0.20% of population)
Buddhist/Chinese: 48,340 adherents (0.20% of population)
Churches: Catholic (12.245m members)
Assemblies of God (180,000 members)
Jehovah’s Witnesses (84,958 members)
Seventh-day Adventist (86,076 members)
Light of the World (105,000 members)
United Pentecostal (114,407 members)
Latter-day Saints (Morm) (44,500 members)
Baptist Convention (27,370 members)
Kingdom of God (UCKG) (25,000 members)
Other Protestant (25,000 members)
FIELPV (Pentecostal) (26,670 members)
Indig Venez Ch of Apure (25,500 members)
Assoc of Ev Chs of the E (11,685 members)
OVICE (Team) (22,000 members)
Church of the Cross (10,497 members)
Evangelical Free (8,550 members)
Other denoms (550,294 members)

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