Since the 1970s, Venezuela has gone from being South America’s richest nation into a nouveau-poor society in search of an identity. Once known as the Saudis of the West, Venezuelans have seen their economic fortunes decline in exact proportion to the general fall in world oil prices. Even so, Venezuela’s many problems were hidden from view until relatively recently, when severity measures heralded the sort of economic crises so painfully familiar to other Latin American countries. Runaway inflation, currency devaluations and even food riots have marked this new phase in Venezuelan history, to which the country is still trying to adjust.

The projected population for 2010 is estimated at approximately 28,809 million, with a birth rate of 29.9 per thousand and a low mortality rate of 4.7 per thousand. Today the estimated population is 23,542,649 with a growth rate of 1.6%. Caracas, the capital, and the state of Miranda, which are the areas with the greatest commercial and financial activity, have a population of 7.7 million people. The industrial and agricultural centers, which are the states of Aragua, Carabobo, and Lara, have a population total of about 5 million people.

The state of Zulia, which is the major cattle rising and oil producing state, has a population of over 3 million people. Guyana, which is in the state of Bolivar, has the most important mineral reserves, has a population of 1,300,000. The mortality rate is at 26.17 per thousand and a birth rate of 21.09 per thousand. In spite of its growth, there is still a low population density. With only nine inhabitants per square kilometer, Venezuela is one of the least densely populated countries in the Western Hemisphere. The Venezuelan population is very young. About 70% is under the age of 40. 33% of the population is between the ages of 0-14. Followed by 63% being between the ages of 15-64 and only 4% of the population is 65 years and over. There is a male domination over female with a total population ratio 1.02 male(s)/female.

Venezuela has a total area of 912,050 square kilometers, 882,050 square kilometers being land and 30,000 square kilometers water. It is slightly more than twice the size of California. Venezuela is the most urbanized country in Latin America. The urban population is about 87% of the total, but is unevenly distributed throughout the country. The migration ratio as of July of 2000 was -0.19 migrants per thousand. The Venezuelan ethnicity is spread out among Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, and indigenous people. 69% of the population is mestizo, 20% white, 9% black, and 2% Indian. With the oil boom, there was an estimated one million immigrants from Spain, Italy and Portugal. There was also a great number of Columbians that migrated over into Venezuela. Later, there was the great professional immigration, which there were migrants that came from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador and Peru.

The total GDP for Venezuela is $194.5 billion with a growth rate of -0.9%. The personal income per capita is $8,500. 67% of the population live below the poverty line. Roads (1997): 96,500 km of which 32% are paved. Vehicles (1993): Passengers 1,507,309. Trucks and buses 474,466. Marine (1992): Ships (over 100 tons) 271; Total tones 1,355,419. Air Transportation (1993): Passengers-km 6,708,000,000; Tones-km cargo 149,000,000. Airports with scheduled trips: 24 (1996). Railroads (1997): 584 km. Newspapers (1992): total number 82; circulation 4,200,000; circulation per 1,000 inhabitants 208. Most important national newspapers are El Nacional, y El Universal.

Radio (1997): 10,750,000 receivers. Television (1997): 4,100,000 receivers. Telephones (main lines; 1998): 2,600,000 (1 per 10 persons). Cellular communications: 4 million lines (Estim. 2000) with three suppliers, which are: Telcel, Movilnet and Digitel.

Venezuela’s principal industries are: petroleum, iron ore mining, construction materials, and food processing, textiles, steel, aluminum and motor vehicle assembly. Venezuela’s major exports are petroleum, bauxite and aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products, and basic manufacturing supplies. The total dollar value in their exports is $20.9 billion. Their majoring exporting partners are the U.S., Germany, Japan, Colombia, Brazil, and Italy. The major imports for Venezuela include raw materials, machinery and equipment, transportation equipment and construction materials. With a total value of $11.8 billion in imports. Main importing partners are U.S., Japan, Colombia, Germany, Italy, France, Brazil, and Canada.

Venezuela’s labor force is at 9.9 million with an unemployment rate of 18%. Labor force by occupations includes 64% services, 23% industry, 13% agricultural. The inflation rate as of 1999 was at 20%. Exchange rate today is about 725 bolivars per $1 U.S. dollar.