The oldest trace of human presence, a leaf-shaped Paleo-Indian spearhead, has been dated to between 9000 and 7000 BC. Later prehistoric settlements are found mainly along Lake Maracaibo and Orinoco. Findings on the Paria Peninsula as well as the Barwari Trace find on nearby Trinidad suggest maritime adaptation and use of boats also along the Venezuelan coast about 5000 BC.
From about 2000 BC cultivated cassava and from 1000 BC pottery was made in villages at Barrancas in the Orinoco Delta. The ceramics are characterized by engraved lines and modeled faces, so-called adornos, of animals and people. Figurines of stone and ceramics are other characteristic prehistoric artifacts from the areas where cassava and later also maize were grown. Compare Central America (Prehistory).
- Countryaah: Check to see the location of Venezuela on the world map. Also covers major mountains, rivers and lakes in Venezuela.
The Spaniards discovered Venezuela in 1498, during Columbus’s third voyage. The following year, Alonso de Ojeda came to Lake Maracaibo, where he saw an Indian village built on piles, which is the origin of the name Venezuela (‘little Venice’).
The arrival of the Spanish
However, the Spanish occupation took a few more decades, and Caracas was founded in 1567. The country had neither easily accessible precious metals nor any large, indigenous indigenous population that could be used as labor. Instead, the Indian people, mainly the Arawaker and the feared caribou, resisted the intruders. These circumstances made Venezuela a less significant part of the Spanish-American empire. The situation gradually changed during the 18th century, when Venezuela developed a dynamic export agriculture. Above all, cocoa, later also coffee, formed the basis for the emergence of a wealthy elite with a seat primarily in Caracas. For cocoa cultivation, black slaves were used, which were to a considerable extent imported from Africa, and in the early 1800s the country’s population consisted of half of black and mulattoes. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Venezuela.
The struggle for independence and the first year of the Republic
The interests of the exporters came into conflict with Spain’s trade policy, which in various ways restricted their commercial freedom. This transformed Venezuela into a very active center for the pursuit of independence. Francisco de Miranda and Simón Bolívar dominated the struggle for independence. Miranda, who had participated in both the North American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary Wars, attempted to liberate Venezuela as early as 1806, but without success. Bolívar convinced him in 1810 to return to Venezuela to lead the government junta that had been formed this year in connection with the collapse of the Spanish kingdom during the Napoleonic Wars. Under Miranda’s influence, the Independent Venezuela’s First Republic was formed on July 5, 1811.
The social base of the Republic was almost exclusively the wealthy elite based in Caracas. This elite was both feared and hated by the crowd formed by slaves, released blacks and mulattos. Many of the black and mulatto lived as free livestock keepers in Venezuela’s hinterland, Llanos, of which they were named llaneros. Nor were other regional elite groups prepared to support the elite in Caracas. All this led to the fall of the First Republic in 1812.
Bolívar soon began a second attempt to liberate Venezuela and marched into Caracas in August 1813. The fate of the Second Republic clearly shows that deep class and racial conflicts divided Venezuela. The Prospective resistance was led by José Tomás Boves, who gathered large crowds of llaneros behind to fight the republic of slaveholders and cocoa exporters. After a very bloody civil war, Boves took Caracas in June 1814. The defeat gave Bolívar the realization that Venezuela could never be free without the support of the people, and his new tactics mimicked the Boves used. In 1816 Bolívar returned to Venezuela and, with llaneros, built the new liberation army. He received decisive support from José Antonio Páez in 1818, who had llaneros with him. Venezuela’s independence was decided in the Battle of Carabobo in June 1821,
Venezuela’s first president
The War of Liberation brought Bolívar to other South American countries, and Páez became Venezuela’s true ruler. Bolívar’s attempt to build a large South American republic, called Gran Colombia, failed, and in 1829 Venezuela broke out of the union that united it with Colombia, Ecuador and Panama. Páez was named Venezuela’s first president in 1830 and completely dominated the country’s politics until 1848. He was a typical Latin American caudillo(leader), who had acquired a great fortune during the liberation war but who was also a leader who could keep the people under control. He ruled – directly or through agents – in broad consensus with Caraca’s wealthy elite and gradually converted to the leaders of the Conservatives. His dictatorial methods led to the emergence of a liberal opposition. José Tadeo Monagas, who had been appointed president with Páez’s help in 1847, turned to his protector, sought allies with the Liberals and, in 1848, injured a rising led by Páez. Monagas and his brother, José Gregorio Monagas, ruled the country dictatorially until 1858, when the Monagas family led to five years of civil war between liberals and conservatives. During this time, Páez ruled the country once again (1861–63). A new strong man got Venezuela with General Antonio Guzmán Blanco.
Oil exports are changing the country
In 1899, power was taken over by Cipriano Castro, a caudillo from the Andean state of Táchira. His dictatorship began a period of almost sixty years – with a break in 1945-48 – during which Venezuela was ruled by different caudillos from the same state. Castro’s foremost achievement was to end the power struggle between various caudillos. With the army’s professionalization, the time of the local private armies was over. After Castro, Juan Vicente Gómez became president and ruled in turns between 1908 and 1935. During his time, the country’s economy changed radically through a rapidly growing oil export, which became a powerful source of income for the country’s government. In 1920, agricultural exports accounted for 96 percent of the country’s total exports, 45 years later it had fallen to 1.5 percent; at the same time, oil exports amounted to 91 percent. An urban middle class also emerged in connection with the country’s urbanization, and new political parties were formed. These changes led to a coup d’état in 1945, when Rómulo Betancourt, founder and leader of the partyAcción Democrática(AD), took power. He and his successor, author Rómulo Gallegos, initiated a program of social and political reforms that shook the country’s old elite. Priority was given to health, education and housing and social policy, and plans for land reform were outlined. A new legislation gave the state 50 percent of the oil profits and thus financed the implementation of the reforms. The reaction came in November 1948 in the form of a coup d’état. A military junta ruled until 1952, when the military appointed General Marcos Pérez Jiménez, the last caudillon from Táchira, as the country’s president. Both AD and the Communist Party were banned, and Venezuela was ruled by brutal methods at a time when huge oil revenues were flowing into the country. In 1958, Pérez Jiménez was deposed in a new military coup, which enabled the election of Rómulo Betancourt as president for the second time.
Punto Fijo Pact for stability
A national agreement called the Punto Fijo Pact was signed in 1958 between the two dominant parties, AD and the Christian Democratic Committee of the Organización Política Electoral Independiente (COPEI), as well as representatives of the church, business and trade unions. The pact would guarantee political stability. that AD and COPEI alternated in power and shared politically appointed posts for the next 30 years. The pact created stability and was initially popular but meant a marginalization of other political parties that were completely shut out of power.
The system was challenged in the 1960s by various guerrilla movements inspired by Fidel Castro in Cuba. But guerrillas lacked popular support and thanks to oil revenues and a growing economy, the 1970s was a golden age when Venezuela reached the peak of oil-financed growth. The state expanded social programs and the education system. The standard of living was one of the highest in Latin America and Caracas a modern capital with a growing middle class.
Despite the growth, the uneven distribution of the country’s wealth consisted, and in the rapid urbanization large slums were created in the cities. The economy continued to be based on oil and import dependency increased. Corruption spread and the lack of political alternatives to the dominant parties created a growing dissatisfaction. When Carlos Andrés Pérez from AD was elected President for the second time in 1989, he introduced tough financial austerity to cope with falling revenues and a growing foreign debt.
Protests against the Stability Pact
The measures in February 1989 led to violent riots in Caracas, with hundreds of dead as a result. The dissatisfaction continued to grow and in February 1992 a group of militaries led by Hugo Chávez attempted a coup d’état and in November of the same year another failed coup attempt was made. The president became increasingly isolated, and after accusations of corruption, he was suspended by Parliament in May 1993 and finally deposed three months later.
In principle, the traditional parties were erased from the political map and new parties advanced strongly. Rafael Caldera won the 1993 presidential election as an independent candidate at the forefront of a broad middle-left coalition. In 1994, Venezuela suffered one of the largest banking crashes in Latin America’s history, and the state had to take over several major private banks. Inflation was at 70 percent, the currency fell sharply in value, and Venezuela was forced into drastic savings programs to be able to obtain loans from, among other things. IMF. The economic austerity policy, high unemployment and increased poverty led to the 1990s being characterized by violent protests against governments’ policies.
Hugo Chávez is elected President
The dissatisfaction contributed to the former coup leader Hugo Chávez winning the 1998 presidential election with the largest victory margin ever in Venezuela’s history. He was supported by a new political alliance, Polo Patriótico, who received a majority of the mandate in Congress. Chávez’s first election victory meant a historic fracture for the country and one of his first steps was to write about the constitution. Chávez promised to fundamentally change society through a “Bolivarian revolution”, baptized and inspired by the freedom hero Simón Bolívar.
Venezuela split between supporters and opponents of President Chávez, and the increased polarization has characterized the country ever since, with fierce contradictions between the old and the new political establishment. The confrontation led to a coup d’état against Chávez in April 2002 and the president was temporarily ousted. But Chávez was able to return to power after two confusing and violent days. The coup attempt led to a radicalization of Chávez’s policy and a cementation of polarization in the country. For the first time, Hugo Chávez declared his revolution as a socialist and became increasingly close to Cuba.
Rising oil revenues provide opportunities for social investment
Thanks to a rising oil price, the government was able to make major investments in social programs aimed at the very poor, which helped Chavez’s popularity grow. In 2005, the opposition boycotted the elections for Congress and in 2006 Chávez was re-elected as president. In principle, he could then rule the country on his own without any organized political opposition in Congress. The social investments produced results in rapidly reducing poverty as well as increased access to health care and education for previously marginalized groups. At the same time, the political polarization was sharpened and opponents of the president were many times imprisoned on unclear charges of corruption. The concentration of power increased as the public administration and the state oil company PDVSA were increasingly controlled directly by Chávez’s partyPartido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) while the state took control of almost all the mass media in the country.
In a second referendum in 2009, a majority voted for the proposal to make unlimited re-election possible. Ahead of the 2010 congressional elections, the political opposition gathered in a new alliance of Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) and got half the votes, with the ruling PSUV still winning a large majority in Congress due to the fact that the electoral system gives sparsely populated countryside proportionally more mandates than densely populated urban regions.
Hugo Chávez dies
In the summer of 2011, Hugo Chávez himself confirmed the rumors that he had long since been ill with cancer. He was operated on in Cuba and then underwent several radiation treatments. Before the presidential election in September 2012, he declared himself fully restored and fully healthy. The opposition alliance MUD managed to unite behind a unifying candidate, the former governor of the state of Miranda, Henrique Capriles and Chávez, according to opinion polls, for the first time since 1998 risked losing an election. The election was rather a referendum on Chávez rather than a choice between the parties’ political programs and Chávez won by 55 percent of the vote.
In December, Chávez announced that the cancer had returned and he went to Cuba for another operation. Prior to his departure, he appointed former Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro as Vice President and his successor if he himself could not return. On March 5 Hugo Chávez passed away and Maduro was elected President.
The economic problems worsened in 2013 and Maduro’s popularity declined rapidly after the election. The political opposition demanded the resignation of the president, and since demonstrations degenerated in early 2014, at least 43 people were killed in clashes between government supporters and oppositionists. The economic crisis and political confrontation increased polarization in society. In 2015, the economic crisis worsened further and at the same time several opposition politicians were accused of trying to overthrow the government. The economic and political crisis in the country caused the opposition to win a big victory in the 2015 parliamentary elections.
Despite a majority in Parliament, the opposition was unable to enforce its legislative proposals when they were stopped by the Supreme Court, which is controlled by the government. This led the opposition to accuse President Maduro and the ruling party of having in effect installed a dictatorship.
Millions of people demonstrated to demand new elections. When the Supreme Court in late March suspended parliamentary escalations and about 20 people were killed in clashes between protesters and police. The court’s decision was withdrawn and instead President Maduro announced that he wants to rewrite the country’s constitution, which took place in 2017. Ten people were killed on the government’s election day, which was the culmination of the increasingly intense clashes between critics and government loyalists.
Since then, the Madurolad assembly has power over all existing elected bodies such as the parliament, which in practice means that Maduro and the ruling party PSUV hold all positions of power.
In May 2018, Nicolás Maduro was re-elected president for another term in an election whose legitimacy was questioned by both the country’s opposition and the outside world. Maduro received 68 percent of the vote in the election whose turnout, according to the country’s official electoral authority, was 46 percent. The opposition described the figure as exaggerated and demanded that the electoral process be redone. Those parts of the opposition that called for a boycott of the election refused to recognize the result.
In 2018, there is a humanitarian and economic crisis in the country with a shortage of food, medicines and water. Inflation is strong and the country unstable.
Venezuela has on several occasions been in conflict with neighboring countries Colombia and Guyana. A hundred-year-old dormant border conflict, in which Venezuela places territorial demands on the so-called Esequibo region, which forms a large part of neighboring Guyanese territory, was actualized by Chávez but has so far been limited to rhetorical and symbolic play.