Venezuela is a country of striking natural beauty, ranging from the snow-capped Andean peaks in the west, through the Amazonian jungles in the south, to the beaches of the north. It is also among the most highly urbanised countries in Latin America.
The country has some of the world’s largest proven oil deposits as well as huge quantities of coal, iron ore, bauxite and gold. Yet many Venezuelans live in poverty, often in shanty towns, some of which sprawl over the hillsides around the capital, Caracas.
Former president Hugo Chavez , who died in 2013, styled himself a champion of the poor during his 14 years in office, pouring billions of dollars of Venezuela’s oil wealth into social programmes.
The government of his successor, Nicolas Maduro, has had to struggle with plummeting oil prices amid an economic crisis characterised by shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation.
- Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
- Capital: Caracas
- Population 30 million
- Area 881,050 sq km (340,561 sq miles)
- Major languagesSpanish, indigenous languages
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 72 years (men), 78 years (women)
- Currency bolivar