Meaning of VENEZUELA, HISTORY OF in English

VENEZUELA, HISTORY OF

history of the area from pre-Columbian times to the present. The oldest inhabitants of Venezuela were primitive food-gathering Indians who arrived in the Late Paleolithic period. There followed, successively, invasions by other food-gathering groups, by community-dwelling Arawak, and by warlike, cannibalistic Caribs. The most advanced Venezuelan Indians were the farming tribes of the Andes; nomadic hunting and fishing groups roamed Lake Maracaibo, the Llanos, and the coast. Additional reading Overviews of Venezuela's history are found in Edwin Lieuwen, Venezuela, 2nd ed. (1965, reprinted 1985); J.M. Siso Martnez, Historia de Venezuela, 9th ed. (1967); J.L. Salcedo-Bastardo, Historia fundamental de Venezuela, 9th rev. ed. (1982); John V. Lombardi, Venezuela: The Search for Order, the Dream of Progress (1982); and Judith Ewell, Venezuela: A Century of Change (1984). See also Donna Keyse Rudolph and G.A. Rudolph, Historical Dictionary of Venezuela (1971), succinct information on major events and persons through 1969. Jos de Oviedo y Baos, The Conquest and Settlement of Venezuela (1987; originally published in Spanish, 1723), details events from the time of Columbus to 1600. Francisco Gonzlez Guinn, Historia contempornea de Venezuela, 15 vol. (190925, reissued 1954), contains an encyclopaedic treatment of the 19th century. Specific events and periods are analyzed in Benjamn A. Frankel, Venezuela y los Estados Unidos, 18101888, trans. from English (1977), a fine account of 19th-century diplomatic relations; Robert L. Gilmore, Caudillism and Militarism in Venezuela, 18101910 (1964), on the evolution from military personalism to military professionalism; Mariano Picn-Salas et al., Venezuela independiente, 18101960 (1962), which includes essays on the evolution of society, culture, the economy, and the political system; Winfield J. Burggraaff, The Venezuelan Armed Forces in Politics, 19351959 (1972), an account of the 20th-century role of the military; and Jacqueline Anne Braveboy-Wagner, The Venezuela-Guyana Border Dispute: Britain's Colonial Legacy in Latin America (1984), which elaborates the arguments. For further historical information, consult John V. Lombardi, Germn Carrera Damas, and Roberta E. Adams, Venezuelan History: A Comprehensive Working Bibliography (1977). John D. Martz The economy The Venezuelan economy is based primarily on the production and exploitation of petroleum. Until 1970 the country was the world's largest petroleum exporter, but it was overtaken in that year. The modernization and diversification of its economy have been predicated upon the application of petroleum sector earnings to other economic sectors; sowing the oil (sembrando el petrleo) has been the slogan since the 1940s. The potential for such diversification and economic growth has been expanded as a result of the discovery of rich deposits of iron ore, nickel, coal, and bauxite, as well as the development of hydroelectric potential. During the 1960s Venezuelan governments stressed import substitution, within the context of protective tariffs and government subsidies. This led to an expansion of new export-oriented enterprises. In the mid-1970s the multinational hold on the Venezuelan oil and gas industries was effectively broken, and a nationalized industry was developed and used to underwrite the massive programs to expand economic infrastructure and public works. The progress of Venezuela's programs based on sowing the oil was considerably set back because of such external conditions as the oil glut beginning in the late 1970s and the global recession of 198083, as well as internal problems of inflation, inefficient management, corruption, and deficiencies in skilled personnel. A growing foreign debt, rising unemployment, and illegal immigration were other pressures on the economy. Although its economic problems were becoming increasingly severe, there were some advances. Investments increased farm output, created a more diversified heavy and light industry, and furthered development of the country's natural resources; and at the same time two new planned industrial cities (Ciudad Guayana and El Tablazo) were created. Resources The largest and richest petroleum deposits in Venezuela are in the Maracaibo Lowlands. Other deposits include those in the eastern part of the Llanos, the Orinoco delta, and offshore. At the time of nationalization in 1976, production was dominated by several multinational firms, which together accounted for more than 80 percent of production. Refining was primarily accomplished offshore in Aruba, Curaao, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. After nationalization a state-owned company, Venezuela Petroleum South America (Petrleos de Venezuela S.A.), assumed responsibility for production, but this industrial effort still depended heavily upon foreign oil companies to refine, transport, and market the oil and natural gas and to provide technical assistance. Venezuela also has abundant natural gas deposits; those discovered north of the Paria Peninsula in eastern Venezuela have received priority government development. Venezuela is also a country rich in other mineral resources, which are largely underdeveloped. The major nonfuel mineral exploited is iron ore. The industry was developed on the basis of concessions granted for 50 years in 1950 to U.S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel to mine the ore in the region surrounding present-day Ciudad Guayana, at Mount Bolvar, and at El Pao. In 1975 the U.S.-owned mining operations were nationalized, and a government-owned corporation, Venezuelan Guayana Corporation, subsequently administered the operations and production. In the mid-1970s large deposits of bauxite were discovered in the Guiana Highlands, much of this being high-grade ore suitable for alumina smelting in the Ciudad Guayana complex. Important mineral resources also include gold and diamonds in the Guiana Highlands, coal northwest of Lake Maracaibo, salt deposits in the Araya Peninsula, and scattered deposits of industrial-grade limestone. Other mineral resources include nickel, phosphates, copper, zinc, lead, titanium, and manganese, and surveys indicate the existence of substantial deposits of uranium and thorium. Inland and ocean fishing grounds and the inland forests are other less developed resources. Apart from petroleum and natural gas, Venezuela's rivers constitute the most important source of power. The Caron River, a major tributary of the Orinoco, has the largest hydroelectric potential. Also part of the Orinoco system, the Santo Domingo River, flowing out of the Mrida Range of the Andes, is the second most important power resource. There is also hydroelectric potential in the shorter course Andean rivers. The land Venezuelan geography presents a number of discernible contrasts of landscape, people, and culture. Towering mountains, tropical jungles, broad river plains, and arid coastal plains provide a diversity of natural habitats that present challenging opportunities for regional development and territorial integration. Sprawling metropolitan centres, densely populated mountain valleys, aboriginal log houses along riverbanks, and open, sparsely settled Llanos (plains) present a diversity of settlement patterns. Pre-Hispanic, colonial Hispanic, and modern social elements coexist in a rich variety of cultural identities. A stable network of towns and cities, whose interconnections define the directions of resource distribution, reflect social continuity within the nation. Relief Altitude and relief are the important discriminators of Venezuela's physical landscape, with seasonal climatic variation providing environmental diversity within broader physiographic domains. Three broad regional divisions can be delimited: the Cordillera, a mountain region (reaching heights of about 16,400 feet [5,000 metres] above sea level), the lowland plains (reaching to 1,600 feet), and the interior forested uplands (reaching to 8,200 feet). Within these three broad divisions, seven physiographic regions can be distinguished: the Andes Mountains; the Lake Maracaibo Lowlands; the islands and coastal plains (including the Orinoco delta); the coastal mountain system; the valleys and hill ranges of northwestern Venezuela, also called the Segovia Highlands; the Llanos; and the Guiana Highlands. The Andes Mountains, including the highest peaks in Venezuela, extend northward into Venezuela in two branches, between which lie the Lake Maracaibo Lowlands. The western branch, the Sierra de Perij, extending along the border with Colombia, is an extension of the Colombian Andes' Cordillera Oriental. The eastern branch, the Cordillera de Mrida, extends from the Tachira depression, which separates it from the Cordillera Oriental, to the Barquisimeto depression. Physiographically, the Segovia Highlands, northwest of Barquisimeto, and the coastal ranges, which in this treatment are regarded separately, may also be considered a part of the Andes chain. The highest point of the Venezuelan Andes is Pico Bolvar (16,427 feet) in the Mrida Mountains; a considerable part of the mountain region has temperate (templado) conditions, but the cold (frio) zone is much smaller than in other Andean countries. The high Andean ranges overlook the lowlands of Lake Maracaibo, much of which are filled by the lake itselfactually a large shallow inlet, or embayment, of the sea. The main oil-producing region of the country, it is covered by dense tropical rain forest in the south, but closer to the Caribbean there is xerophytic thorn scrubland. The islands and coastal plains are located to the north and northeast of Venezuela. They include the Caribbean Islands to the Leeward, such as Margarita and Tortuga, and several peninsulas, including the head-shaped Paraguan to the west and, to the east, Araya and Paria, the latter a finger of land pointing at Trinidad. The coastal plains extend from the Colombian border and the Gulf of Venezuela eastward to the foothills of the Coastal Range; the Unare Basin, the country's largest inland embayment, spreads out east of the range. Beyond Unare, in the east, the Orinoco delta opens onto the Atlantic Ocean through a number of distributories (canos); an early gateway to the interior, it is a low, dank, and swampy area heavily dissected by streams. The coastal mountain system, in effect two parallel rangesthe Coastal Range and the Interior Rangecontains Venezuela's greatest concentration of population, although covering only 3 percent of the national territory. In the intermontane valleys are the major cities of Caracas, Valencia, and Maracay, and all but the steepest slopes are populated. The highest point is Naiguat peak (9,069 feet). The valleys and hill ranges of the northwest form a transitional upland zone between the Coastal and Andean mountains. Elevations there range from 1,600 to 5,500 feet. The only desert in Venezuelathe city of Coro's sand dunesis found in this region. Between the Mrida Range and the Orinoco River lie the Llanos, a relatively level savanna region, where the only undulations of relief are between low mesalike interfluves and shallow, meandering, braided river courses. Cattle grazing predominates in this sparsely populated region, which experiences river flooding in summer and drought in winter as seasonal extremes. From the Andean foothills to the Orinoco delta, these Llanos extend for some 800 miles, varying in width from 100 miles in the east to 300 miles in the west. From the Orinoco through the southernmost (Amazonas) territory bordering Colombia, Brazil, and Guyana is the Guiana Highlands, or Guayana, largely an upland surface of rounded hills and narrow valleys formed from ancient crystalline rocks. Occupying almost 50 percent of the country, it is the most remote and least explored area of Venezuela. Along the southern border with Brazil are groups of massive plateaus and mesas, known as tepuis, capped with resistant sandstone, which are remnants of the former erosional surfaces of the original continental landmass. These tepuis are covered with intermingled savanna and semideciduous forest, and like the lowland savannas of the Llanos, they experience extreme rainy and dry seasons. In the southeastern Guiana Highlands, in the region called La Gran Sabana (a high plain), are the Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world (3,212 feet). The highlands are sparsely settled. An estimated 30,000 native Indians live in the tropical forests of the Amazonas territory bordering Brazil and Colombia. Other settlements are clustered around mission stations along the rivers. The highlands, however, have tremendous resource potential; they abound in deposits of iron ore, gold, and diamonds, and they possess considerable hydroelectric potential, as well as hardwood forest resources. The long-standing conflict with Guyana over territorial jurisdiction of bordering areas, as well as the tensions over Brazilian and Colombian settlements and illegal crossings of people, cattle, and contraband on the Amazonas borders, have made the highlands a region of increasing strategic importance. The people Ethnic composition Venezuela is a country of immigrants, with only 2 percent of its population being made up of indigenous Indian groups. The dominant ethnic type, sometimes called pardo, is of mixed African, European, and Indian ancestry; the pardos constitute 69 percent of the population, whites make up another 20 percent, and blacks 9 percent. Perhaps as many as one-fourth of the contemporary population are immigrants, many illegal. Prior to 1948, Venezuela had never openly encouraged non-Hispanic immigration, except for selective influxes of merchants, sailors, and entrepreneurs from neighbouring West Indian islands. In the late 1940s, however, stimulated by the development of a petroleum economy, a pro-immigration policy was adopted by the government. During a 10-year open immigration period, Venezuela recruited agricultural and skilled workers from Spain, Italy, and Portugal; at the same time emigration from Colombia to Venezuela also increased. Approximately one million immigrants entered the country between 1948 and 1958, although many of these eventually returned home. After 1958 the government tightened immigration controls, preferring a selective immigration that favoured foreigners with high-level skills. Colombians, however, continued to move into the rural sector during the 1960s as replacement labour for city-bound rural Venezuelans. The mid-1970s petroleum boom marked another shift in immigration policies. A large demand for labour occurred, particularly semiskilled and skilled, in all sectors of the economy. At the same time, political instability and strife caused an exodus of professional and technical workers and their families from Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, many of them relocating in Venezuela. After 1976 Venezuela again tightened its controls on immigration from other South American countries, favouring professionals from the United States, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Throughout this period of relative prosperity and expansion of the Venezuelan economy, the volume of illegal immigration matched that of legal entry. Particularly serving the unskilled sectors of the domestic economy, illegal immigrants came in large numbers from Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. This alien population is thought to exceed two million, many of them females employed in domestic service. The large and rapid influx of foreigners, especially illegal Colombians, has generated a xenophobic outcry that is the cause of considerable political debate and concern. Ethnic and racial groups are regionally oriented. Whites and mestizos are found mainly in the major cities. The Indian minorities survive only in the remote interiorin the Guiana Highlands and in the forests west of Lake Maracaibo. Peoples of African ancestry and the mulatto-mestizo groups predominate along the Caribbean coast. There are physiological distinctions between the highland and lowland mestizos, which reflect the Hispanic mixing with the Indian populations of the two regions. The Indian groups speak more than 25 different languages, most of which belong to three linguistic familiesCariban, Arawak, and Chibcha. Spanish is the national language of the majority. Local idioms, colloquial phrases, and simplified verb usage distinguish Venezuelan Spanish from other Latin-American and Iberian variants. In Caracas and other major commercial centres, English is often favoured in business communications, and private schools in Caracas have come to encourage bilingualism in their students. The presence of English-speaking professionals in the oil centres and in the major cities has encouraged the establishment of English as the country's most popular second language. Freedom of religion in Venezuela is guaranteed by the constitution, and, although more than 90 percent of the people are adherents of Roman Catholicism, religious tolerance is generally observed. Various Protestant sects form the largest minority group, and there are small groups of Jews and Muslims. Some Indian peoples continue to practice their traditional religions, but many have converted to Roman Catholicism. The Roman Catholic church, while officially apolitical, has become increasingly an instrument for social progress. Demographic trends Venezuela's 20th-century population growth has been among the most rapid in Latin America, prompted by high birth rates, declines in mortality rates, and successive waves of immigration. After World War II Venezuela's mortality rate began to drop with advances in medicine and technology to combat malaria and yellow fever; progress in the treatment of tuberculosis, typhoid, bronchitis, and dysentery; improvements in hygiene and diet; and the upgrading of housing conditions. While birth rates continued to remain at high levels, mortality rates, which had been as high as 30 per thousand before 1920, dropped to below 10 per thousand by the 1960s. Since that time the mortality rate has stabilized, and demographic changes have been mostly influenced by reductions in fertility levels and immigration rates. Fertility rates, nevertheless, have remained relatively high, a condition that maintains a young population, more than 60 percent being under 30 years of age. Life expectancy rates have also been rising, a trend contributing to rapid population growth, with its accompanying challenge of creating economic opportunities for the new generation.

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