Venezuela: Page 4 of 5
in 2007, and 10,600 new asylum seekers entered Venezuela in 2007. Between 500,000 and one million illegal immigrants are estimated to be living in the country.
Although the country is mostly monolingual Venezuelan Spanish (a dialect of Castilian), many languages are spoken in Venezuela. In addition to Spanish, the Constitution recognizes more than thirty indigenous languages, Wayuu, Warao, pemón and many others for the official use of the Amerindian peoples, mostly with few speakers, less than 1% of the total population. Immigrants, in addition to Spanish, speak their own languages. Arabic is spoken by Lebanese and Syrian colonies on Isla de Margarita, Maracaibo, Punto Fijo, Puerto la Cruz, El Tigre, Maracay and Caracas. Portuguese is spoken, as well as the Portuguese community in Santa Elena de Uairén for much of the population due to its proximity to Brazil. The German community speaks their native language, while the Colonia Tovar speaks mostly Alemannic dialect of German called coloniero. English is the most widely used foreign language and demand, and is spoken by many professionals, academics and part of the upper and middle classes as a result of oil exploration by foreign companies, in addition to its acceptance as a lingua franca. Culturally, English is common in southern towns like El Callao, for the Anglophone West Indian influence evident in folk songs and calypso Venezuelan and French with English voices. Italian instruction is guaranteed by the presence of a constant number of schools and private institutions, because the Italian government considered mandatory language teaching at school level. Other languages spoken by large communities from drawing in the country are Chinese and Galician, among others.
The total indigenous population of the country is estimated at about 500 thousand people (2.8% of the total), distributed among 40 indigenous peoples. The Constitution recognizes the multi-ethnic, pluri-cultural and multilingual character of the country, and includes a chapter devoted to indigenous peoples' rights, which opened up spaces for their political inclusion at national and local level in 1999. Most indigenous peoples are concentrated in eight states along Venezuela's borders with Brazil, Guyana, and Colombia, and the majority groups are the Wayuu (west), the Warao (east), the Yanomami (south) and the Pemon (south-east).
According to government estimates, 92% of the population is at least nominally Roman Catholic, and the remaining 8% are either irreligious, Protestant, or a member of another religion. The Venezuelan Evangelical Council estimates that Evangelical Protestants constitute 10% of the population.
In Venezuela, a population of Santería followers has been growing since 2008. The rituals can cost 40,000 bolivars and include the slaughtering of a rooster, a chicken, or a goat.
The literacy rate for the adult population was already 91.1 by 1998. In 2008, 95.2% of the adult population was literate. Net primary school enrollment rate was at 91% in 2005. Net secondary enrollment rate was at 63% in 2005. Venezuela has a number of universities, of which the most prestigious are the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), founded in Caracas in 1721, the University of the Andes (ULA), founded in Mérida State in 1810, and Simón Bolívar University (USB), founded in Miranda State in 1967.
Venezuela has a national universal health care system. The current government has created a program to expand access to health care known as Misión Barrio Adentro.
Infant mortality in Venezuela stood at 16 deaths per 1,000 births in 2004, lower than the South American average (by comparison, the U.S. stands at 5 deaths per 1,000 births in 2006). Child malnutrition (defined as stunting or wasting in children under age five) stands at 17%; Delta Amacuro and Amazonas have the nation's highest rates. According to the United Nations, 32% of Venezuelans lack adequate sanitation, primarily those living in rural areas. Diseases ranging from typhoid, yellow fever, cholera, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis D are present in the country.
Venezuela has a total of 150 plants for sewage treatment. However, still 13% of the population lack access to drinking water, but this number has been dropping.
Venezuela is among the most urbanized countries in Latin America; the vast majority of Venezuelans live in the cities of the north, especially in the capital Caracas which is also the largest city. About 93% of the population live in urban areas in northern Venezuela; 73% live less than 100 kilometres (62 mi) from the coastline. Though almost half of Venezuela's land area lies south of the Orinoco, only 5% of Venezuelans live there. The largest and most important city south of the Orinoco is Ciudad Guayana, which is the sixth most populous conurbation. Other major cities include Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracay, Maracaibo, Mérida, San Cristóbal and Barcelona-Puerto La Cruz.
Corruption in Venezuela is high by world standards, and was so for much of the 20th century. The discovery of oil had worsened political corruption, and by the late 1970s, Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso's description of oil as "the Devil's excrement" had become a common expression in Venezuela. Venezuela has been ranked one of the most corrupt countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index since the survey started in 1995. The 2010 ranking placed Venezuela at number 164, out of 178 ranked countries.
In 2009, the homicide rate was approximately 57 per 100,000, one of the world’s highest, having trebled in the previous decade (according to The Economist). The capital Caracas has the second greatest homicide rate of any large city in the world, with 92 homicides per 100,000 residents. There have been 118,541 homicides in Venezuela between 1999 and 2010. In 2008, polls indicated that crime was the number one concern of voters.
The government recently created a security force named the Bolivarian National Police, which has lowered crime rates in the areas in which it is so far deployed and a new Experimental Security University.
In Venezuela, are approximately 33 prisons which hold about 50,000 inmates. They include; El Rodeo outside of Caracas, Yare Prison in the northern state of Miranda, and several others. Venezuela's prison system is heavily overcrowded; its facilities have capacity for only 14,000 prisoners.
The Venezuelan president is elected by a vote, with direct and universal suffrage, and is both head of state and head of government. The term of office is six years, and (as of 15 February 2009) a president may be re-elected an unlimited number of times. The president appoints the vice president and decides the size and composition of the cabinet and makes appointments to it with the involvement of the legislature. The president can ask the legislature to reconsider portions of laws he finds objectionable, but a simple parliamentary majority can override these objections.
The president may ask the National Assembly to pass an enabling act granting the ability to rule by decree in specified policy areas; this requires a two-thirds majority in the Assembly. Since 1959 six Venezuelan presidents have been granted such powers.
The unicameral Venezuelan parliament is the Asamblea Nacional ("National Assembly"). The number of members is variable, each state and the Capital district elect three representatives plus the result of dividing the state population by 1.1% of the total population of the country. Three seats are reserved for representatives of Venezuela's indigenous peoples. For the 2010–2015 period the number of seats is 165. All deputies serve five-year terms.
The voting age in Venezuela is 18 and older. Voting is not compulsory.
The legal system of Venezuela belongs to the Continental Law tradition. The highest judicial body is the Supreme Tribunal of Justice or Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, whose magistrates are elected by parliament for a single twelve-year term. The National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, or CNE) is in charge of electoral processes; it is formed by five main directors elected by the National Assembly. Supreme Court president Luisa Estela Morales said in December 2009 that Venezuela had moved away from "a rigid division of powers" toward a system characterized by "intense coordination" between the branches of government. Morales clarified that each power must be independent adding that "one thing is separation of powers and another one is division".
Throughout most of the 20th century, Venezuela maintained friendly relations with most Latin American and Western nations. Relations between Venezuela and the United States government worsened in 2002, after the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt during which the U.S. government recognized the short-lived interim presidency of Pedro Carmona. Correspondingly, ties to various Latin American and Middle Eastern countries not allied to the U.S. have strengthened.
Venezuela seeks alternative hemispheric integration via such proposals as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas trade proposal and the newly launched pan-Latin American television network teleSUR. Venezuela is one of the six nations in the world—along with Russia, Nicaragua, Nauru, Vanuatu, and Tuvalu—to have recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Venezuela was a proponent of OAS's decision to adopt its Anti-Corruption Convention, and is actively working in the Mercosur trade bloc to push increased trade and energy integration. Globally, it seeks a "multi-polar" world based on strengthened ties among Third World countries.
The Bolivarian National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana, FANB) are the overall unified military forces of Venezuela. It includes over 320,150 men and women, under Article 328 of the Constitution, in 5 components of Ground, Sea and Air. The components of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces are: the Venezuelan Army, the Venezuelan Navy, the Venezuelan Air Force, the Venezuelan National Guard, and the Venezuelan National Militia.
As of 2008, a further 600,000 soldiers were incorporated into a new branch, known as the Armed Reserve. The President of Venezuela is the commander-in-chief of the national armed forces. The main roles of the armed forces are to defend the sovereign national territory of Venezuela, airspace, and islands, fight against drug trafficking, to search and rescue and, in the case of a natural disaster, civil protection. All male citizens of Venezuela have a constitutional duty to register for the military service at the age of 18, which is the age of majority in Venezuela.
Following the fall of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958, Venezuelan politics were dominated by the Third Way Christian democratic COPEI and the center-left social democratic Democratic Action (AD) parties; this two-party system was formalized by the puntofijismo arrangement. Economic crises in the 1980s and 1990s led to a political crisis which saw hundreds dead in the Caracazo riots of 1989, two attempted coups in 1992, and impeachment of President Carlos Andrés Pérez for corruption in 1993. A collapse in confidence in the existing parties saw the 1998 election of Hugo Chávez, who had led the first of the 1992 coup attempts, and the launch of a "Bolivarian Revolution", beginning with a 1999 Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution of Venezuela.
The opposition's attempts to unseat Chávez included the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt, the Venezuelan general strike of 2002–2003, and the Venezuelan recall referendum, 2004, all of which failed. Chávez was re-elected in December 2006, but suffered a significant defeat in 2007 with the narrow rejection of the Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007, which had offered two packages of constitutional reforms aimed at deepening the Bolivarian Revolution.
There are currently two major blocs of political parties in Venezuela: the incumbent leftist bloc United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), its major allies Fatherland for All (PPT) and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), and the opposition bloc grouped into the electoral coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática. This includes A New Era (UNT) together with allied parties Project Venezuela, Justice First, Movement for Socialism and others.
On 14 April 2013, Nicolás Maduro, the incumbent candidate, and Henrique Capriles Radonski, candidate for the coalition of opposition parties stood for the constitutionally mandated elections. The electoral authority (CNE – Consejo Nacional Electoral, National Electoral Council) certified Nicolas Maduro as the winner of the elections by a margin of 1.80% of the cast votes, but the results were contested