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Introduction Venezuela was one of the richest countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Ecuador). 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. Current concerns include: a polarized political environment, a politicized military, drug-related violence along the Colombian border, increasing internal drug consumption, overdependence on the petroleum industry with its price fluctuations, and irresponsible mining operations that are endangering the rain forest and indigenous peoples. Geography Venezuela Location: Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana Geographic coordinates: 8 00 N, 66 00 W Map references: South America Area: total: 912,050 sq km land: 882,050 sq km water: 30,000 sq km Area - comparative: slightly more than twice the size of California Land boundaries: total: 4,993 km border countries: Brazil 2,200 km, Colombia 2,050 km, Guyana 743 km Coastline: 2,800 km Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation contiguous zone: 15 nm exclusive economic zone: 200 nm Climate: tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands Terrain: Andes Mountains and Maracaibo Lowlands in northwest; central plains (llanos); Guiana Highlands in southeast Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m highest point: Pico Bolivar (La Columna) 5,007 m Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, other minerals, hydropower, diamonds Land use: arable land: 2.95% permanent crops: 0.92% other: 96.13% (2001) Irrigated land: 540 sq km (1998 est.) Natural hazards: subject to floods, rockslides, mudslides; periodic droughts Environment - current issues: sewage pollution of Lago de Valencia; oil and urban pollution of Lago de Maracaibo; deforestation; soil degradation; urban and industrial pollution, especially along the Caribbean coast; threat to the rainforest ecosystem from irresponsible mining operations Environment - international agreements: party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands signed but not ratified:: none of the selected agreements Geography - note: on major sea and air routes linking North and South America; Angel Falls in the Guiana Highlands is the world's highest waterfall People Venezuela Population: 25,375,281 (July 2005 est.) Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.

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