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History of Venezuela

At the time of the Spanish discovery, the indigenous people were mainly agriculturists and hunters living in groups along the coast, the Andean mountain range, and along the Orinoco River. The first permanent Spanish settlement in South America, Nuevo Toledo[?] was established in Venezuela in 1522. Venezuela was a relatively neglected colony in the 1500s and 1600s as the Spaniards focused on extracting gold from other areas of their empire in the Americas.

The Venezuelans began to grow restive under colonial control toward the end of the 18th century. After several unsuccessful uprisings, the country achieved independence from Spain in 1821 under the leadership of its most famous son, Simon Bolivar. Venezuela, along with what are now Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador, was part of the Republic of Gran Colombia[?] until 1830, when Venezuela separated and became a sovereign country.

Much of Venezuela's 19th century history was characterized by periods of political instability, dictatorial rule, and revolutionary turbulence. The first half of the 20th century was marked by periods of authoritarianism--including dictatorships from 1908-35 and from 1950-58. The Venezuelan economy shifted after World War 1 from a primarily agricultural orientation to an economy centered on petroleum production and export.

Since the overthrow of Gen. Marcos Perez Jimenez in 1958 and the military's withdrawal from direct involvement in national politics, Venezuela has enjoyed an unbroken tradition of civilian democratic rule. Until the 1998 elections, the Democratic Action[?] (AD) and the Christian Democratic (COPEI) parties dominated the political environment at both the state and federal level.

Hugo Chavez was elected President in December 1998 on a platform that called for the creation of a National Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution for Venezuela. Chavez's argument that the existing political system had become isolated from the people won broad acceptance, particularly among Venezuela's poorest classes, who had seen a significant real decline in their living standards over the previous decade and a half. The National Constituent Assembly (ANC), consisting of 131 elected individuals, convened in August 1999 to begin rewriting the Constitution In free elections, voters gave all but six seats to persons associated with Chavez's movement. Venezuelans approved the ANC's draft in a referendum on December 15, 1999.

Current concerns include: drug-related conflicts along the Colombian border, increasing internal drug consumption, overdependence on the petroleum industry with its price fluctuations, and irresponsible mining operations which are endangering the rain forest and indigenous peoples.

See also : Presidents of Venezuela - Venezuela



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