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First intellectual output. Loyola Andalucia University

First intellectual output. Loyola Andalucia University

Venezuela

Socioeconomic and geopolitical aspects (geographic, historical, demographic, political, economic notes)

Geography

  • Located in Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana
  • Extension: 912, 050 km2
  • Terrain: Andes Mountains and Maracaibo Lowlands in northwest; central plains (llanos); Guiana Highlands in southeast
  • Land use: Agriculture 24% (arable land 3.1%; permanent crops 0.8%; permanent pasture 20.6%). Forest1% and other 23%.
  • Climate: tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands.
  • Key natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, other minerals, hydropower, diamonds.

History

  • 1521 - Spanish colonization begins on the north-east coast.
  • 1810 - Venezuelans take advantage of Napoleon's invasion of Spain to declare independence.
  • 1829-30 - Venezuela secedes from Gran Colombia.
  • 1973 - Venezuela benefits from oil boom and its currency peaks against the US dollar; oil and steel industries nationalized.
  • 1989 - Carlos Andres Perez (AD) elected president amid economic depression, launches austerity programmed with IMF loan. Riots, martial law and general strike follow, with hundreds killed in street violence.
  • 1992 - Colonel Hugo Chavez and supporters make two coup attempts. Some 120 people killed in suppression of coups, Col Chavez jailed for two years before being pardoned.
  • 1993-95 - President Perez impeached on corruption charges.
  • 1998 - Hugo Chavez elected president amid disenchantment with established parties, launches 'Bolivarian Revolution' that brings in new constitution, socialist and populist economic and social policies funded by high oil prices, and increasingly vocal anti-US foreign policy.
  • 2001 - President Chavez uses enabling act to pass 49 laws aimed at redistributing land and wealth. Concern grows in business and some labor circles that he is trying to concentrate economic and political power in the state, along Cuban lines.

Demography

  • Capital: Caracas
  • Population: 31,304,016 (July 2017 est.)
  • Religion: Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%
  • Language: Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects
  • Ethnicities: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, indigenous people

Economy

Venezuela is highly dependent on oil revenues, which account for almost all export earnings and nearly half of the government’s revenue. In 2016, GDP contracted 10%, inflation hit 720%, people faced widespread shortages of consumer goods, and central bank international reserves dwindled. Domestic production and industry continues to severely underperform and the Venezuelan government continues to rely on imports to meet its basic food and consumer goods needs.

Falling oil prices since 2014 have aggravated Venezuela’s economic crisis. Insufficient access to dollars, price controls, and rigid labor regulations have led some US and multinational firms to reduce or shut down their Venezuelan operations. Market uncertainty and state oil company PDVSA’s poor cash flow have slowed investment in the petroleum sector, resulting in a decline in oil production.

Under President Nicolas MADURO, the Venezuelan Government’s response to the economic crisis has been to increase state control over the economy and blame the private sector for the shortages. MADURO has ceded increasing authority for the production and distribution of scarce goods to the military and to local socialist party member committees. The Venezuelan Government has maintained strict currency controls since 2003. On 17 February 2016, the Venezuelan Government announced a change from three official currency exchange mechanisms to only two official rates for the sale of dollars to private-sector firms and individuals, with rates based on the government's import priorities. The official exchange rate used for food and medicine imports was devalued to 10 bolivars per dollar from 6.3 bolivars per dollar. The second rate moved to a managed float. These currency controls present significant obstacles to trade with Venezuela because importers cannot obtain sufficient dollars to purchase goods needed to maintain their operations. Meting out access to the multiple exchange rates has created opportunities for arbitrage and corruption. MADURO has used decree powers to enact legislation to deepen the state’s role as the primary buyer and distributor of imports, further tighten currency controls, cap business profits, and extend price controls.

Current conflicts (and their causes)
Even by the volatile and violent standards of recent times in Venezuela, 2017 was an exceptional year, a “perfect storm” of political and economic crisis. Going into a fourth year of crippling recession, Venezuela’s 30 million people found themselves skipping meals, suffering shortages of basic foods and medicines, jostling in lines for ever-scarcer subsidized goods, unable to keep up with dizzying inflation rates, and emigrating in ever larger numbers. In unprecedented scenes for the once-prosperous OPEC nation, some citizens survived only by scavenging through garbage.

Factors that impel displacement or seek refuge outside the country
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets across Venezuela, decrying economic hardship, demanding a presidential election, urging a foreign humanitarian aid corridor, and seeking freedom for scores of jailed activists. Slogans that read “Maduro, murderer!” and “Maduro, dictator!” began appearing on roads and walls around the country. Though most protesters were peaceful, youths wearing masks and brandishing homemade Viking-style shields started turning up at the front of rallies to taunt security forces. When police and National Guard soldiers blocked marches, youths threw Molotov cocktails and stones. The security forces quickly escalated tactics, routinely turning water-cannons on the protesters and firing teargas into crowds. Guns appeared on the streets, and on several occasions security officials were caught on camera firing directly at demonstrators. Police were targeted with homemade explosives. Opposition supporters burned one man alive. The deaths, injuries and arrests mounted. Over the chaotic months, at least 125 people died, thousands were injured and thousands were jailed.

Main countries of destination of the refugee flows and particularities of the routes
According to UNHCR, the main countries of destination for Venezuelan asylum seekers this year have been the United States (18,300), Brazil (12,960), Peru (4,453), Spain (4,300) and Mexico (1,044). Aruba, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago, have also received asylum applications by Venezuelans in 2017.

Consequences of violence or terror in people
Political turmoil and a crippling economic crisis have left millions of Venezuelans struggling to eat and short of medicines. About 100 people have died and more than 1,500 have been injured in months of anti-government unrest.

Reference suggestions to be consulted about refugees
UNHCR
Reuters
The Guardian

Attachments:
Download this file (report-venezuela.pdf)Report[Spanish language]

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