Venezuela Essay, Research Paper
Venezuela has seven physical geographic regions; The Andes Mountains, which include the highest peaks in the country, extend northward into Venezuela in two branches divided by the Lake Maracaibo Lowlands. Pico Bolivar is the highest point of the Venezuelan Andes at 16,427 feet and it is located in the eastern branch, the Cordillera de Merida The Sierra de Perija, the western branch, extends along the border with Colombia.
The lowlands of Lake Maracaibo are overlooked by the Andean ranges. The lake itself is approximately 100 miles long from north to south and 75 miles in width at its widest point. The lake itself is a large shallow inlet of the sea with a narrow strait connecting the lake to the Caribbean. This area is the main oil-producing region of the country.
The third geographical feature of Venezuela are the coastal plains and islands that make-up another region which are located to the north and northeast of the country. It includes Caribbean islands such as Margarita, Tortuga and Los Roques. The coastal plains extend from the Colombian border and the Gulf of Venezuela eastward to the foothills of the Coastal Range, a coastline being 1,512 miles long. The
coastal plains includes the Orinoco+s delta which is Venezuela+s longest
river at 1,600 miles long.
The coastal mountain system consists of two ranges that are parallel to each other, the Coastal Range and the Interior Range. This area makes up 3% of the national territory and contains the majority of Venezuela+s population.
In the valleys are the major cities of Caracas, Valencia, and Maracay, with all but the steepest slopes being populated. In the northwest valleys and hill ranges lies the only desert in Venezuela wherein lies the city of Coro.
The sixth area is the Llanos, a savanna region, which is located between the Merida mountain range and the Orinoco River. The Llanos extend approximately 800 miles with a width varying from 100 miles to 300 miles.
The seventh region is the Guiana Highlands which occupies almost 50 percent of the country and is the most remote and least explored area. A most often visited landmark is located in this region, the Angel Falls, which is world+s highest waterfall at 3,212 feet.
Venezuela is considered tropical with its southernmost point almost
touching the equator. There is little variation in temperature in Venezuela throughout the year,with an average annual temperature of above 75., with the only differences in temperature due to the changes in elevation. There are two climatic seasons in Venezuela; the wet season occurs from May to November, and the dry season begins in December lasting until the end of March.
Spanish is the national language of the majority (97%). Local idioms, colloquial phrases, and simplified verb usage distinguish Venezuelan Spanish from other Latin-American and Iberian forms. English is the country+s most popular second language with it being favored in business communications, and private schools in Caracas have encouraged
bilingualism in their students.
The capital city of Caracas has historical monuments like the Plaza Bolivar commemorating the liberator of Venezuela, Simon Bolivar. Bolivar+s birthplace is open to the public, as well as a museum in his honor. A monument representing the Battle of Carabobo is significant. It represents the final major military engagement of the War for Independence in Venezuela on June 24, 1821. There is a statue honoring Romula Gallegos, famous Venezuelan author and who also has the honor of being the first popularly elected civilian president in Venezuelan history, in 1948. There are many examples of colonial architecture in major cities such as Valencia, Merida, Isla Margarita, as well as in Caracas. Pico Bolivar in the Andes Mountains has a beautiful statue of a Virgin Mary. Cathedrals stand in all major cities, as well as a Basilica in the city of Maracaibo.
Ninety-two percent of Venezuelans practice Roman Catholicism. The other eight percent is made up various Protestant sects with small groups of Jews and Muslims. Some of the Indian population continue to practice their native religions but most have converted to Catholicism with the help of the Franciscans, Capuchins, Dominicans, Jesuits, and Augustinians who were active in Venezuela during the colonial period. The Venezuelan
constitution guarantees freedom of religion with religious tolerance
generally observed. Venezuela is officially a secular state even though
the Roman Catholic church has over time become more and more an
instrument for social progress.
Probably the most celebrated event of them all, Carnival takes place during the month of February, forty days before Good Friday, but has no fixed date because Easter is a floating holiday. Carnival has existed in
Venezuela since the colonial period, and was much celebrated in Caracas. Today, however, Carnival has lost its importance in the major cities, and is taken more seriously in the coastal towns, and other provinces, especially in El Callao.
LA CRUZ DE MAYO
This religious act is in the name of the Holy Cross. Every cross found
in public places in the smaller towns and provinces is decorated with
flowers on the third of May. The people of these towns light candles and
take them to the cross with offerings and a wish. The celebration that
follows varies according to the town’s traditions.
SEMANA SANTA / EASTER
Easter is a Catholic festival, but it has become a holiday around most
of the world. It begins forty days after Carnival, so its date oscillates between March and April, and would officially begin on Good Friday. On Palm Sunday people visit the church nearest to them to pick up a piece of holy palm. This is probably the only catholic ceremony that has not been altered in Venezuela, and would therefore need no explanation. In just the same way as Catholics in the US fast on certain days, and pray on others, Venezuelans would also be doing the same things. The official religion of the country is, after all, Catholicism, even though people do not attend church on Sundays as often as in Spain.
LOS TAMBORES DE BARLOVENTO
The Drums of Barlovento are celebrated at the beginning of the rain
season in March, near Corpus Christi, in Barlovento, Miranda state. This area comprises the towns Curiepe, Higuerote, Caucagua, Tacarigua and others where there is a large black population due to the coffee and banana plantations that existed there in the colonial period. Thus, this is an Afro-Caribbean tradition in which the drums are the main theme complemented by various other wooden instruments, mostly of African origin.
There are 42,001 total roadway miles including 12,300 of those being paved. The number of passenger automobiles using those roads amounts to approximately 1,615,000 and 438,000 goods vehicles. Expansion of railroads dwindled because of the development of the road system and the relatively low domestic fuel prices. The total mileage in rail links is 293 miles. Caracas begun a 50km underground railway project in 1976 and completed it in 1989. Caracas is serviced by two major airports: the Simon Bolivar handles international services and Maiquetia handles domestic flights. Venezuela has a total of 61 commercial airports, of which seven are of international status.
Venezuela+s principal export at the beginning of the 20th century was coffee; the third largest producer after Brazil and Indonesia. By 1935, petroleum had overtaken coffee as the number one export and it continues to be so to this present day. Venezuela was one of five founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which was formally legalized in Venezuela, in January 1961. Until 1970, Venezuela was the world+s largest petroleum exporter. Because of fallen oil prices that began in 1986, Venezuela began investing in other areas of economical development such as increased steel and aluminum output.
In order to not depend so much on oil exports, Venezuela decided after 20 years of nationalized oil, that it would enter into joint ventures with the private sector, including 20 from the U.S. In January, 1996, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the government owned oil company, awarded its first joint- venture contract. This decision was not done with a smile, but with resentment because it was in accord with the International Monetary Fund guidelines which is regarded as an interference upon the independence of Venezuela.
An economical problem has been the inability to provide enough food for its population, although there has been improvement in production output in the last decade. By the early 1990+s, only 20% of total food needs had to be imported, compared to 40% of a decade earlier. Recently,
Venezuela has had to import approximately $700 million annually in food.
The only agricultural product in which they are self-sufficient is meat.
Other economical problems include an inflation rate of 71%, the highest in Latin America and unemployment of 11% due to the banking system nearly collapsing in June of 1994.
Form of Currency-
Venezuelan money is called the bolivar.
1.Type of Government-
Venezuela+s formal name is the Republic of Venezuela and its government type is a Federal Republic. The Legislature is exercised by Congress which is divided into two Chambers: the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Senators are elected by the population with two representing each state, and two to represent the Federal District. There are in addition other Senators, their number being determined by law, who are selected on the principle of minority representation.
Ex-presidents of the Republic are life members of the Senate. Executive Power is vested in a President of the Republic elected every 5 years, who may not serve two consecutive terms. The President has the power to discharge the Constitution and the laws, to nominate or remove Ministers, to take command of the Armed Forces, to direct foreign relations of the State, to declare a state of emergency and withdraw the civil guarantees laid down in the Constitution, to convene extraordinary sessions of the Congress and to administer national finance. The President also appoints an Attorney-General to act as a legal arbiter for the state.
Judicial Power is exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice and by the Tribunals. The Supreme Court forms the highest Tribunal of the Republic and the Magistrates of the Supreme Court are elected by both Chambers in joint sessions.
Venezuelan political parties are considered highly organized as compared to the rest of Latin America. The political parties are: Accion Democratica – AD (Democratic
Action). In September, 1941, AD was officially established with its origins dating back to 1928 formed by a group of university students who
organized in protest of Juan Vicente Gomez+s dictatorship. Ideologically, it is a member of the Socialist International and is considered as the most influential Latin American Party.
AD, along with COPEI, has dominated national politics.Partido Social Cristiano (COPEI) was established after WWII as a Christian Democratic political party. It was founded in 1946 and is one of the two principal political parties in Venezuela. It has its roots in the Congress of Catholic Youth in Rome organization. Rafael Caldera, the present president, was a founding member. The party has a Christian socialist orientation with its members defending the Democratic system, civil and political liberties, a social benefits program, individual freedoms, and the incentive of private property.
Movimiento al Socialismo – (MAS) was formed in January 19, 1971 by splintering off from the Venezuelan Communist Party. The MAS criticized the bureaucratization, excessive centralism, and monolithic nature of the Communist Party, which they felt held back debate and the exercise of democracy. It criticized the importation of socialism from one country to another because they felt each country should be treated individually. It has established itself as the third strongest political party although representation has not surpassed 10%.
Venezuela+s total population as of an 1994 estimate is 20,562,405. The country is primarily made up of immigrants. with only 2% being Amerind, the indigenous Indian groups. The majority group consists of 69% Mestizo, 20% White, and 9% Black. There are immigrants who enter illegally and remain, which make up about one-fourth of the population. The majority come from neighboring Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
The ethnic and racial groups are regionally oriented. Whites and mestizos are found mainly in the major cities, with the Indians being able to maintain their culture in the remote interior areas. Blacks and the mulatto-mestizo groups concentrate along the Caribbean coast.