Venezuela Fast Facts
Venezuela is a landlocked country in South America about the same size as Portugal, which straddles the Equator and is bordered by Colombia, Brazil (including the Guajira Peninsula, which borders the north coast) and Columbia. The major exports of Venezuela are petroleum, nickel, gold, and coffee.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 75% of Venezuelans use food stamps to feed their families; 90% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. The government of President Hugo Chávez has not passed a new budget in seven years and is suffering from inflation that reaches 8,000% per year. Venezuela’s economy has been in decline for years, and the government of Chávez has had severe problems getting his economic policies through.
Venezuela is a republic. The president and vice president are elected by popular vote and the cabinet is appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly (elected by popular vote). Venezuela was declared independent from Spain in 1811.
The constitution of Venezuela grants wide powers to the president, which include the right to appoint up to 80% of the cabinet, including the attorney general and the general secretary of the armed forces (the latter must be at least 35 years of age). In contrast, the constitution of the United States makes it a criminal offense to appoint a United States citizen to any office of the executive branch.
The government of Hugo Chávez has declared Venezuela as a drug-free country and a public service-free zone (PFSFZ). On January 22, 2010 the Supreme Court of Venezuela annulled the Presidential Decree No. 2.927, which declared the country a drug-free zone. As a result, the government of Chávez ordered the seizure of illegal narcotics which were being shipped to the United States.
On October 29, 2010, the US government declared the country a state sponsor of terrorism. This determination came after a Venezuelan man, Efraín Ríos Montoto, had been captured after he shot and killed an American contractor working for the Central Intelligence Agency, in the US state of Virginia; and was accused of plotting an attack against a U.S. naval