Location: Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean
Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana
Geographic coordinates: 8 00 N, 66 00 W
Map references: South America, Central America and the Caribbean
total: 912,050 sq km
land: 882,050 sq km
water: 30,000 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly more than twice the size of
total: 4,993 km
border countries: Brazil 2,200 km, Colombia 2,050 km, Guyana
Coastline: 2,800 km
contiguous zone: 15 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands
Terrain: Andes Mountains and Maracaibo Lowlands in northwest;
central plains (llanos); Guiana Highlands in southeast
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Pico Bolivar (La Columna) 5,007 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold,
bauxite, other minerals, hydropower, diamonds
arable land: 4%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 20%
forests and woodland: 34%
other: 41% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,900 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: subject to floods, rockslides, mud slides;
Environment - current issues: sewage pollution of Lago de
Valencia; oil and urban pollution of Lago de Maracaibo; deforestation;
soil degradation; urban and industrial pollution, especially along
the Caribbean coast
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change,
Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life
Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution,
Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Dumping
Geography - note: on major sea and air routes linking North
and South America
Venezuela, republic in South America, bounded on the north by the
Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, on the east by Guyana, on the
south by Brazil, and on the southwest and west by Colombia.
The climate of Venezuela is tropical on the Llanos and along the
coast, and temperate in the mountainous regions.
The average daily temperature range in January in Caracas is 13°
to 24° C (56° to 75° F) and 23° to 32° C (73° to 90° F) in Maracaibo;
in July the range is 16° to 26° C (61° to 78° F) in Caracas and
24° to 34° C (76° to 94° F) in Maracaibo.
Most precipitation falls from May through November, with the northern
mountain slopes receiving less rain than those on the south.
Venezuela is a prosperous South American country that ranks as one
of the world's leading producers and exporters of petroleum.
Before its petroleum industry began to boom during the 1920's, Venezuela
was one of the poorer countries in South America. Its economy was
based on such agricultural products as cacao and coffee.
Venezuela was one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse
of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Ecuador).
For most of the first half of the 20th century, Venezuela was ruled
by generally benevolent military strongmen, who promoted the oil
industry and allowed for some social reforms. Democratically elected
governments have held sway since 1959.
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
Formal Name: Republic of Venezuela.
Short Form: Venezuela.
Term for Citizens: Venezuelan(s).
Size: Approximately 912,050 square kilometers.
Topography: Four well-defined regions--Maracaibo
lowlands in the northwest, northern mountains stretching from Colombian
border along the Caribbean Sea, central Orinoco plains (llanos),
and Guiana highlands in southeast.
Climate: Varies from tropical humid to alpine
depending on elevation, topography, and prevailing winds. Rainy
season for most regions runs from May through November.
Data as of December 1990
Located at the northernmost end of South America, Venezuela has
a total area of 912,050 square kilometers and a land area of 882,050
square kilometers, about twice the size of California. Shaped roughly
like an inverted triangle, the country has a 2,800-kilometer coastline
and is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic
Ocean, on the east by Guyana, on the south by Brazil, and on the
west by Colombia .
Data as of December 1990
Most observers describe Venezuela in terms of four fairly well-defined
regions: the Maracaibo lowlands in the northwest, the northern mountains
extending in a broad east-west arc from the Colombian border along
the Caribbean Sea, the wide Orinoco plains (
llanos-- ) in central Venezuela, and the highly dissected Guiana
highlands in the southeast.
The Maracaibo lowlands form a large spoon-shaped oval bounded by
mountains on three sides and open to the Caribbean on the north.
The area is remarkably flat with only a gentle slope toward the
center and away from the mountains that border the region. Lago
de Maracaibo occupies much of the lower-lying territory. Areas around
the southern part of Lago de Maracaibo are swampy, and, despite
the rich agricultural land and significant petroleum deposits, the
area was still thinly populated in 1990.
The mountains bordering the Caribbean Sea are actually the northeasternmost
extension of the Andes chain. Broken by several gaps, these high
mountains have peaks over 4,500 meters; the fertile valleys between
the ranges contain most of Venezuela's population, industry, and
agriculture. The discontinuous westernmost range runs along the
Colombian border and is the least densely populated part of this
region. The ranges southeast of Lago de Maracaibo contain some of
the highest peaks in the country (Pico Bolívar reaches 5,007 meters),
a few of which are snowcapped year-round.
A broad gap separates this mountainous area from another rugged
pair of ranges that parallel the north-central coast. The series
of valleys between these two parallel ranges constitutes the core
area of the country; as the site of burgeoning metropolitan Caracas,
this comparatively small area hosts the country's densest population,
the most intensive agriculture, and the best transportation network.
Another broad gap separates this area from the easternmost group
of mountains, a series of dissected hills and uplands that rise
steeply from the Caribbean and extend eastward almost to Trinidad.
The great expanse of lowlands known as the Orinoco plains extends
westward from the Caribbean coast to the Colombian border between
the northern mountains and the Río Orinoco. This region is commonly
known as the llanos, although it also contains large stretches of
swampland in the Orinoco Delta and near the Colombian border. The
area slopes gradually away from the highland areas that surround
it; elevations in the llanos never exceed 200 meters. North of the
Río Apure, rivers flowing out of the northern mountains cut shallow
valleys, leaving eroded ridges that give the land a gently rolling
appearance. South of the Apure, the terrain is flatter and elevations
One of the oldest land forms in South America, the Guiana highlands
rise almost immediately south and east of the Río Orinoco. Erosion
has created unusual formations in this region. Comprising over half
of the country, the highlands consist primarily of plateau areas
scored by swiftly running tributaries of the Orinoco. The most conspicuous
topographical feature of the region is the Gran Sabana, a large,
deeply eroded high plateau that rises from surrounding areas in
abrupt cliffs up to 800 meters high. Above the rolling surface of
the Gran Sabana massive, flat-topped bluffs emerge; many of these
bluffs (referred to as tepuis by the Venezuelans) reach
considerable altitudes. The most famous tepui contains
Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall.
Data as of December 1990
Although the country lies wholly within the tropics, its climate
varies from tropical humid to alpine, depending on the elevation,
topography, and the direction and intensity of prevailing winds.
Seasonal variations are marked less by temperature than by rainfall.
Most of the country has a distinct rainy season; the rainy period
(May through November) is commonly referred to as winter and the
remainder of the year as summer.
The country falls into four horizontal temperature zones based
primarily on elevation. In the tropical zone--below 800 meters--temperatures
are hot, with yearly averages ranging between 26° C and 28°
C. The temperate zone ranges between 800 and 2,000 meters with averages
from 12° C to 25° C; many of Venezuela's cities, including
the capital, lie in this region. Colder conditions with temperatures
from 9° C to 11° C are found in the cool zone between 2,000
and 3,000 meters. Pastureland and permanent snowfield with yearly
averages below 8° C cover land above 3,000 in the high mountain
areas known as the páramos.
Average yearly rainfall amounts in the lowlands and plains range
from a semiarid 430 millimeters in the western part of the Caribbean
coastal areas to around 1,000 millimeters in the Orinoco Delta.
Rainfall in mountainous areas varies considerably; sheltered valleys
receive little rain, but slopes exposed to the northeast trade winds
experience heavy rainfall. Caracas averages 750 millimeters of precipitation
annually, more than half of it falling from June through August.
Data as of December 1990
The Orinoco is by far the most important of the more than 1,000
rivers in the country. Flowing more than 2,500 kilometers to the
Atlantic from its source in the Guiana highlands at the Brazilian
border, the Orinoco is the world's eighth largest river and the
largest in South America after the Amazon. Its flow varies substantially
by season, with the high water level in August exceeding by as much
as thirteen meters the low levels of March and April. During low
water periods, the river experiences high and low tides for more
than 100 kilometers upstream from Ciudad Guayana.
For most of the Orinoco's course, the gradient is slight. Downstream
from its headwaters, it splits into two; one-third of its flow passes
through the Brazo Casiquiare (Casiquiare Channel) into a tributary
of the Amazon, and the remainder passes into the main Orinoco channel.
This passageway allows vessels with shallow drafts to navigate from
the lower Orinoco to the Amazon River system after unloading and
reloading on either side of two falls on the Orinoco along the Colombian
Most of the rivers rising in the northern mountains flow southeastward
to the Río Apure, a tributary of the Orinoco. From its headwater,
the Apure crosses the llanos in a generally eastward direction.
Few rivers flow into it from the poorly drained region south of
the river and much of this area near the Colombian border is swampland.
The other major Venezuelan river is the fast-flowing Caroní, which
originates in the Guiana highlands and flows northward into the
Orinoco upstream from Ciudad Guyana. The Caroní is capable of producing
as much hydroelectric power as any river in Latin America and has
contributed significantly to the nation's electric power production
. Electricity generated by the Caroní was one of the factors encouraging
industrialization of the northern part of the Guiana highlands and
the lower Orinoco valley.
The Lago de Maracaibo, the largest lake in Latin America, occupies
the central 13,500 square kilometers of the Maracaibo lowlands.
The low swampy shores of the lake and areas beneath the lake itself
hold most of Venezuela's rich petroleum deposits. The lake is shallow,
with an average depth of ten meters, and separated from the Caribbean
by a series of islands and sandbars. In 1955 a 7.5-meter channel
was cut through the sandbars to facilitate shipping between the
lake and the Caribbean. The channel also allows salt water to mix
with the yellowish fresh water of the lake, making the northern
parts brackish and unsuited for drinking or irrigation.
Data as of December 1990