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Venezuela was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Ecuador and New Granada, which became Colombia). For most of the first half of the 20th century, Venezuela was ruled by generally benevolent military strongmen who promoted the oil industry and allowed for some social reforms. Democratically elected governments have held sway since 1959. Under Hugo CHAVEZ, president from 1999 to 2013, and his hand-picked successor, President Nicolas MADURO, the executive branch has exercised increasingly authoritarian control over other branches of government. At the same time, democratic institutions have deteriorated, freedoms of expression and the press have been curtailed, and political polarization has grown. The ruling party's economic policies have expanded the state's role in the economy through expropriations of major enterprises, strict currency exchange and price controls that discourage private sector investment and production, and overdependence on the petroleum industry for revenues, among others. Current concerns include: human rights abuses, rampant violent crime, high inflation, and widespread shortages of basic consumer goods, medicine, and medical supplies.


Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana

Natural Resources

petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, other minerals, hydropower, diamonds

Population - distribution

most of the population is concentrated in the northern and western highlands along an eastern spur at the northern end of the Andes, an area that includes the capital of Caracas

Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects
CARACAS (capital) 2.916 million; Maracaibo 2.196 million; Valencia 1.734 million; Maracay 1.166 million; Barquisimeto 1.039 million (2015)
Conventional long form
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Conventional short form
Local long form
Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela
Local short form
federal presidential republic
Geographic coordinates
10 29 N, 66 52 W
Time difference
UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil revenues, which account for almost all export earnings and nearly half of the government’s revenue. In 2016, GDP contracted 10%, inflation hit 720%, people faced widespread shortages of consumer goods, and central bank international reserves dwindled. On the other hand, Venezuela managed to pay down its external debt and narrow its current account deficit. Domestic production and industry continues to severely underperform and the Venezuelan government continues to rely on imports to meet its basic food and consumer goods needs.
External debt stocks
US$ 123,666,152,000
Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
Real Interest Rate
Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
Current Account Balance
US$ -20,360,000,000
Labor Force, Total
Employment in Agriculture
Employment in Industry
Employment in Services
Unemployment Rate
Imports of goods and services
US$ 109,494,283,844
Exports of goods and services
US$ 91,879,629,484
Total Merchandise Trade
FDI, net inflows
US$ 3,764,000,000
Commercial Service Exports
US$ 1,491,000,000
corn, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, bananas, vegetables, coffee; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish
agricultural products, livestock, raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, iron and steel products, crude oil and petroleum products
petroleum and petroleum products, bauxite and aluminum, minerals, chemicals, agricultural products
US 24.5%, China 14.1%, Colombia 10.8%, Netherlands 9.3%, Brazil 6.8%, Cuba 4.2% (2015)
agricultural products, livestock, raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials, medical equipment, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, iron and steel products
US 24%, China 18.3%, Brazil 8.9%, Colombia 5.1%, Mexico 4.4%, Argentina 4% (2015)
Country Risk Rating
The highest-risk political and economic situation and the most difficult business environment. Corporate default is likely.
Business Climate Rating
The highest possible risk in terms of business climate. Due to a lack of available financial information and an unpredictable legal system, doing business in this country is extremely difficult.
  • Significant oil reserves along the Oronoco river and potential offshore gas fields
  • Geographic proximity to the United States, the leading market for Venezuelan oil
  • Influence within the Caribbean region through the PetroCaribe initiative
  • Assets (including in the United States) of the State oil company, PDVSA
  • Growing active population
  • Economy heavily dependent on oil and gas sector and loans from China
  • Critical risk of default on external debts
  • Escalating political instability
  • Hyperinflation
  • Inefficiency of PDVSA State-owned oil company
  • Opaque and informal management of oil and gas revenues
  • Shortages of currency and goods
  • Length of payment time in business

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