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What Should I Know About Venezuela?

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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2014
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The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, better known as simply Venezuela, has a population of over 27 million, spread over 353,841 square miles (916,445 km²). Besides the territorial mainland, Venezuela owns several islands on the Caribbean Sea, and has territorial disputes with Guyana and Colombia. Discovered in 1499 by Spanish explorers, Venezuela got its name because explorers first saw small floating indigenous homes in the river, and associated the area with Venice. Venezuela did not become an independent republic until 1830, after gaining independence from Spain and then from the territory of Gran Colombia.

Venezuela has an extremely diverse ecosystem, with everything from plains and wetlands to coastline and jungles. Because of this, its climate and fauna are also extremely diverse, featuring some unique species, such as the giant rodent capybara, not found anywhere else in the world. Much of Venezuela's land is now protected under different international environmental treaties. Over 60 percent of Venezuela's population is of mixed race, a result of centuries of Spanish colonists mixing with the natives. In contrast, only one percent of the country's population is now pure indigenous.

Venezuela has a well-established history of ecotourism. Travelers from all over the world arrive every year in Venezuela to explore its numerous waterfalls, trek its jungles, and climb the Andes peaks. Besides its 40 national parks, a large part of Venezuela's land is still unexplored and untouched.

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Venezuela has implemented new foreign policies since the last president, Hugo Chávez Frías, took to power in 1998. Part of his policies includes a series of changes in his relationship with the United States. This has led to numerous confrontations, such as Chavez initiative to trade with Cuba, sever military ties with the US, and purchase of a large array of Russian gunpower. The foreign policy of Hugo Chávez sometimes borders on personal attack, with Chavez expressing his dislike of George Bush, his policies, and his ministers directly. Chavez has also accused the US government of secretly supporting the actions of the rebels who briefly overthrew him in 2002.

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