South American state. According to official sources, the population (23,054,210 at the 2001 census) in 2006 was equal to 25,730,000 residents, mainly concentrated in the urban areas of the northern regions of the country, including that of Caracas (1,700,000 residents the city, almost 5 million urban agglomeration estimates). Overall, the urban population was approximately 88 % of the total (2004), while the density was just over 28 residents / km 2. According to 800zipcodes, demographic trends are typical of developing countries, with a still high birth rate (21.8 ‰ in 2006) and a modest mortality (5.1 ‰). Over a third of the population is under the age of 18, however a fairly rapid aging process is underway. The Venezuelan economy is strongly linked to the exploitation of the huge oil fields, which led Venezuela to become the ninth country in the world in 2005 for the consistency of oil reserves; the oil sector accounts for about one third of GDP and over 80 % of exports (2003). The high price of oil in recent years has helped to support the trend in GDP which, after the two-year period 2002 – 03characterized by a crisis linked to internal instability problems, it recorded a record growth of 17.3 % in 2004, partly confirmed also in 2005 (+ 9.4 %).
Unemployment, although falling (around 10 % in 2006), and high inflation, as well as dependence on the oil sector, represent structural problems of the Venezuelan economy. The country can, however, also count on numerous other resources (natural gas, iron, bauxite, coal, diamonds and gold). The extra-oil activities include the metallurgy and iron and steel, textile and means of transport sectors. Despite the significant natural heritage, tourism is underdeveloped. Venezuela is still characterized by significant territorial and social imbalances (about half of the families are below the poverty line), to which the government chaired by H. Chávez Frías (in office since 1999 and re-elected in 2006) is trying to remedy it with a socialist-style policy. On the international level, Venezuela is particularly active, in an anti-US and anti-liberal key, for the economic integration of the countries of Latin America.
In the aftermath of the referendum on the new Constitution (December 1999), approved by 71.4 % of the voters (but with the participation of just 45.3 % of the voters), President H. Chávez Frías initiated the application of a series of measures intended to give substance to his project of ‘Bolivarian revolution’: among the most significant (which, however, were not spared criticism) the appointment of various members of his entourage at the helm of important state institutions (Supreme Court of justice, auditing, central bank). In line with the president’s ideological orientation, the country received the new name of República Bolivariana de Venezuela .
Dissolved in January 2000 the Constituent Asamblea Nacional , in July the presidential elections and those for the new unicameral Parliament (the Asamblea Nacional ) were held, both of which saw the participation of just over 53 % of the voters. In the early days Chávez got 59.8 % of the votes; 37.5 % went to its main antagonist, F. Arias Cárdenas (one of the four military leaders involved in the 1992 coup ). In the legislative elections, the parties supporting Chávez won 105 of the 165 seats, the main ones being the Movimiento V República (MVR, founded by Chávez in 1998 ; 44.4 % of the votes, 93 seats) and the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS; 5 %, 6 seats); 60 opposition parties won, the most important of which were Acción Democrática (AD; 16.1 %, 33 seats), Proyecto Venezuela (PRVZL; 6.9 %, 6 seats) and the Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente ( COPEI; 5.1 %, 6 seats). The Asamblea Nacional it met for the first time in August.
Chávez’s powers were greatly expanded by a law (Nov.) which, for a period of one year, gave him the power to issue decrees in a number of areas, from public finance to agrarian reform, without legislative debate. In the same month, the government decided to submit to a referendum its proposal to suspend the leaders of the country’s largest trade union center, the opposition-controlled Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV) from their post for a period of six months. based on allegations of corruption and undemocratic behavior. The proposal won 65 % of the votes in the referendum (Dec. 3), which however was invalidated due to the low turnout of voters (23 %).
In the presidential elections of December 2006, in which the opposition decided to participate and in which 74.7 % of the voters voted, Chávez defeated his main antagonist, M. Rosales (36.9 %), with 62.9 % of the votes.), candidate of the opposition. In January 2007, the president made public his intention to bring Venezuela, over the next six years, towards a socialist economy: a program whose first step should have been the nationalization of the main private electricity and telecommunications companies.
In the early 21st century. relations between Venezuela and USA were marked by a deterioration. In 2000 Chávez refused permission to fly over the country to US planes used to suppress drug trafficking; the contrasts between the Venezuelan president and the US president GW Bush were then exacerbated by the friendly relations that Chávez had with the Cuban government, by his open condemnation of the invasion of Irāq (2003), and by the signing of trade agreements by Venezuela and cultural with China, India, Irān and Russia (2001), military with Russia (2005 and 2006) and oil with China (2004), India (2005) and Irān (2006).