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Timeline: Central World

OTL equivalent: Venezuela
Flag of Venezuela 1930-2006 Coat of arms of Venezuela (1954-2006)
Flag Coat of Arms
Venezuela-CWo (orthographic projection)
Location of Venezuela

Dios y Federacion

Anthem "Gloria al Bravo Pueblo"
Capital Caracas
Largest city Caracas
  others Indian Languages
Religion Catholic
Area 916,445 km²
Population 26,814,843 
Established 13 January 1830 (independence from Gran Colombia)
Independence from Spain
  declared 5 July 1811
  recognized 30 March 1845
Organizations D.U.A.S.

Venezuela (pronounced /ˌvɛnɨˈzweɪlə/; Spanish: [beneˈθwela]), officially called the Republic of Venezuela (Spanish: República de Venezuela), is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It is a continental mainland with numerous islands located off its coastline in the Caribbean Sea. The republic is a former Spanish colony that won its independence in 1821.

Venezuela borders Guyana (West Indies Federation) to the east, Brazil to the south, and Colombia to the west. Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Lucia, Barbados, Curaçao, Bonaire, Aruba, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Leeward Antilles lie just north, off the Venezuelan coast. Its size is 916,445 km² with an estimated population of 26,414,816. Its capital is Caracas. The colors of the Venezuelan flag are yellow, blue and red, in that order: the yellow stands for land wealth, the blue for the sea and sky of the country, and the red for the blood shed by the heroes of independence.

Venezuela has territorial disputes with Surinam (formerly United Kingdom and then Netherlands), largely concerning the Essequibo area, and with Colombia concerning the Gulf of Venezuela. In 1895, after years of diplomatic attempts to solve the border dispute, from Venezuela, the dispute over the Essequibo River border flared up, it was submitted to a "neutral" commission (composed of United Kingdom, United States and Russian representatives and without a direct Venezuelan representative), which in 1899 decided mostly against Venezuela's claim.Venezuela is known widely for its petroleum industry, the environmental diversity of its territory, and its natural features. Venezuela is considered to be among the world's 17 most biodiverse countries, featuring diverse wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.

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. Other major cities include Maracaibo, Valencia, Maracay, Barquisimeto, Merida, Barcelona-Puerto La Cruz and Ciudad Guayana.


250px-Firma del acta de independencia de Venezuela

The signing of Venezuela's independence, by Martín Tovar y Tovar.

Human habitation of Venezuela could have commenced at least 15,000 years ago from which period leaf-shaped tools, together with chopping and plano-convex scraping implements, have been found exposed on the high riverine terraces of the Rio Pedregal in western Venezuela. Late Pleistocene hunting artifacts, including spear tips, have been found at a similar series of sites in north-western Venezuela known as "El Jobo"; according to radiocarbon dating, these date from 13,000 to 7,000 BC.

Venezuela was first colonized by Spain in 1522 in what is now Cumaná. These portions of eastern Venezuela were incorporated into New Andalusia. Administered by the Audiencia of Santo Domingo since the early 16th century, most of Venezuela became part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in the early 18th century, and was then reorganized as an autonomous Captaincy General starting in 1776.

In the 16th century, during the Spanish colonization, indigenous peoples such as many of the Mariches, themselves descendants of the Caribs rejected paganism and embraced Roman Catholicism. Some Spaniards treated the natives harshly. Indian caciques (leaders) such as Guaicaipuro and Tamanaco attempted to resist Spanish incursions, but were ultimately defeated; Tamanaco was put to death by order of Caracas' founder Diego de Losada.

After a series of unsuccessful uprisings, Venezuela—under the leadership of Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan marshal who had fought in the American Revolution and the French Revolution—declared independence on 5 July 1811. This began the Venezuelan War of Independence. However, a devastating earthquake that struck Caracas in 1812, together with the rebellion of the Venezuelan llaneros, helped bring down the first Venezuelan republic. A second Venezuelan republic, proclaimed on 7 August 1813, lasted several months before being crushed as well.

Sovereignty was only attained after Simón Bolívar, aided by José Antonio Páez and Antonio José de Sucre, won the Battle of Carabobo on 24 June 1821. José Prudencio Padilla and Rafael Urdaneta's victory in the Battle of Lake Maracaibo on 24 July 1823, helped seal Venezuelan independence. New Granada's congress gave Bolívar control of the Granadian army; leading it, he liberated several countries and founded Gran Colombia.


The Battle of Carabobo, during the Venezuelan War of Independence.

Sucre, who won many battles for Bolívar, went on to liberate Ecuador and later become the second president of Bolivia. Venezuela remained part of Gran Colombia until 1830, when a rebellion led by Páez allowed the proclamation of a newly independent Venezuela; Páez became the first president of the new republic. Two decades of warfare had cost the lives of between a quarter and a third of the Venezuelan population, which in 1830 numbered no more than 800,000.

Much of Venezuela's nineteenth century history was characterized by political turmoil and dictatorial rule.


Of all the regions of Venezuela, the Andes and Guayana had not participated actively in the many insurrections that had plagued the other parts of Venezuela. The llanos had been the great battleground of most of the confrontations between caudillos, whose struggles spilled over into Barquisimeto. Coro had been the favorite landing site for most of the rebellions, especially the
Cipriano Castro por Herrera Toro

Cipriano Castro

Great War of the Caudillos. Maracaibo at one time tried to go autonomous and had to be taken by arms. Guayana was so under-populated it hardly counted. But the Andes was another story. It was the richest region of Venezuela through the export of coffee. It had a healthful, high-altitude climate. It probably accounted for perhaps half the total population of Venezuela. Malaria and yellow fever and other tropical scourges had become endemic in the llanos. A rebel from Trujillo, the Andean province closest to central Venezuela, had once tried and failed at rebellion. But in the 1890s the Andeans, especially in Táchira, started flexing their muscles. When Crespo was killed, Venezuela entered a period of uncertainty as Andrade was not himself a caudillo and he was Crespo’s placeman. In 1899, the Tachirense Cipriano Castro, a short-tempered and highly ambitious man, formed a real army with Andean recruits and the support of his friend Juan Vicente Gómez. Castro met practically no resistance on his march to Caracas. His forces were larger now under the command of Gómez. As was to be expected, the new government was like lighting not one but many fuses to many enterprising, aspiring caudillos. Castro was himself courageous, but he did not need to take the field: he had Gómez, who in two years of active campaigning with his Andean troops put down not only the on-going rebellions, but even made sure that there were not to be any more rebellions by placing Andean lieutenants and Andean troops in all the regional capitals of Venezuela.
Juan vicente GOMEZ

Juan Vicente Gomez, first pro-american dictator of Venezuela

Few would deny two things about Castro: he was a debauchee with an insatiable taste for cognac and he was a daredevil in foreign relations defying Europe as if he had a navy and adequate coastal defences. Many Venezuelans consider Castro a great patriot but in fact, when he got embroiled with his Venezuela's European creditors, he did not hesitate to invoke the Monroe Doctrine in defense of his country’s sovereignty. Guzman Blanco had tried to have Britain recognize Venezuelan sovereignty to the Essequibo river, in modern terms over half of the state of Guyana. Britain ignored this claim but in 1887 in tried to extend the boundary far into the actual territory of Venezuela prompting the first Venezuelan appeal to the Monroe Doctrine. The USA in 1895 asked that Britain submit its claim to arbitration, which London refused at first creating tension with Washington. There was some eye-winking on the two sides and finally Britain accepted arbitration, which validated its rejection of the Essequibo river boundary, and accepted a broad interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine. Castro had nothing to do with this affair, but he inherited from his predecessors a burden of foreign debt which he refused to honor. An international fleet of European gunboats blockaded Venezuela’s coasts in 1902. With the Guiana border precedent in mind, Castro invoked again the Monroe Doctrine. Germany was aggressively pursuing its blockade in western Venezuela, where there was a large colony of German merchants in Maracaibo, and this preoccupied the Theodore Roosevelt administration, which told the Germans to back off. But at the same time it told Castro that the Monroe Doctrine did not apply to unpaid debts. The debt question was sent to the Hague Tribunal which faulted Venezuela. Castro was reluctantly forced to start paying up, but the total cancellation of the overdue bills did not occur under his government. Another war, this time with the Netherlands, broke out in late 1908.

In 1908, Castro was too sick to be cured in Venezuela and he left for Germany leaving Gómez in charge. Castro had not gone further than the outer Antilles when Gómez took over the government and forbade Castro from returning. This was the beginning of a regime that lasted until 1935 and is interwoven with the early development of the oil industry, the greatest influence ever on the history of Venezuela. One of Gómez’s first measures was to start canceling outstanding Venezuelan international debts, a goal which was soon achieved. Under Gómez, Venezuela acquired all the appurtenances of a regular national army staffed and officered almost entirely by Andeans. At the time, the country had a widespread telegraphic system. Under these circumstances, the possibility of caudillo uprisings was curtailed. The only armed threat against Gómez came from a disaffected former business partner to whom he had given a monopoly on all maritime and riverine commerce. Although there are many tales of Gómez’s cruelty and ruthlessness, they are mostly exaggerations by his enemies. The man who had tried to overthrow him, Roman Delgado Chalbaud, spent fourteen years in jail. He later claimed that he was in ball and chains during all that time, but he was released by Gómez. His son, Carlos Delgado Chalbaud, would later become president of Venezuela. When university students staged a street demonstration in 1928, they were arrested but were soon released. But Gómez was indeed ruthless in throttling all opposition and he allowed a personality cult, but this was as much his doing as that of his sycophants, who were numerous all over Venezuela. Gómez, unlike Guzmán Blanco, never erected a statue of himself anywhere in Venezuela. He was a stickler for legal formalisms, which in essence meant that he introduced new constitutions any time it suited his political ends, although this was also the rule during the 19th century. During his dictatorship, Gómez appointed two figurehead presidents while he kept a tight hold on the armed forces from Maracay, his favorite city, west of Caracas, which he embellished and made the main Venezuelan garrison, a status which it retained until at least the 1950s.

The Discovery of Oil

It did not take much geological expertise to know that Venezuela had large petroleum deposits, because the petroleum oozed out from seeps all over the country and an asphalt lake had formed naturally. Venezuelans themselves had tried to extract oil for a small hand-pumped refinery early in the 20th century. As the word spread internationally of Venezuela’s oil potential two things happened: representatives of large foreign companies came to the country and started lobbying for rights of exploration and exploitation and Gómez established the concessionary system. Venezuela had inherited from Spain the law that the ground surface—presumably, as deep as a plow or a water well went—could belong to individuals but everything under the soil was state property. Thus, Gómez began to grant huge concessions to family and friends. Any one who was close to Gómez eventually would become rich in one way or another. Gómez himself accumulated immense expanses of grasslands for cattle-raising, which had been his original occupation and was a life-long passion. The Venezuelan concessionaires leased or sold their holdings to the highest foreign bidders. Gómez, who didn’t trust industrial workers or unions, refused to allow the oil companies to build refineries on Venezuelan soil, so these were built them in the Dutch islands of Aruba and Curaçao. The one in Aruba was for a time the second largest in the world, after the one in Abadan, Iran. Although the Venezuelan oil boom started around 1918, the year when oil first figured as an export commodity, it took off when an oil well called Barroso blew a 200-foot (60 m) spout that threw up an average of the equivalent to 100,000 barrels a day. It took five days to bring the flow under control. After that, there was no looking back. By 1927, oil was Venezuela’s most valuable export and by 1929 Venezuela exported more oil than any other country in the world.

It has been said that Gómez did not tax the oil companies and that Venezuela did not benefit from oil production, but this is only a half-truth. The Venezuelan government derived considerable income from the concessions and from taxes of one sort of another, but the original fiscal laws which applied to the oil companies were hammered out between the government and American lawyers. The laws were relatively lenient, but Gómez, who had an acute business sense, understood that it was necessary to create incentives for investors in the Venezuelan oil fields, some of which were very accessible but others were deep in jungles. Oil income allowed Gómez to expand Venezuela’s rudimentary infrastructure and the over all impact of the oil industry on Venezuela was a modernizing trend in the areas where it operated. But in a wider sense, the Venezuelan people, except for those who worked for the oil companies and lived badly but had a steady income, benefited little or not all from the country’s oil riches.

Gómez took power in a very poor illiterate country. The white/pardos social divide was still very much in place. When Gómez died in his bed in 1935, Venezuela was still a poor illiterate country and if anything the social stratification had been accentuated. The population had grown from perhaps one million and a half to two million. Malaria was the greatest killer. Gómez himself probably had Amerindian ancestry, but he was overtly racist and he was much influenced by a historian, Laureano Vallenilla Lanz, who published a book claiming not inaccurately that the Venezuelan War of Independence was really a civil war with the dubious added argument that pardos were a menace to public order and Venezuela could only subsist as a nation ruled by white strongmen. Gómez, for instance, prohibited all immigration from black Caribbean islands. Even though Venezuela’s population in his time was 80% pardo, passports, which were first issued under Gómez, identified carriers by the color of skin, which they still did until the 1980s. Venezuela did change considerably under Gómez. It had radio stations in all the important cities. There existed an incipient middle class. But it still had only two or three universities. It was estimated that 90% of families were formed through common-law marriages. The social progress that did take place was through a spontaneous trend towards modernization in which oil played the central role.

Aborted Road to Gradual Democracy


President Medina Angarita

Gómez's minister of war, Eleazar López Contreras, succeeded him: a tall, thin, disciplined soldier with a solid education. Before arriving at his post, he served the Gomecista government loyally wherever he was sent, including at one time Venezuela’s eastern land’s end, a village called Cristobal Colón, across from Trinidad. In power, López Contreras allowed the pardo masses to vent for a few days before clamping down. He had Gómez’s properties confiscated by the state, but the dictator’s relatives, with some exceptions who left the country, were not harassed. Gómez never married but he had various illegitimate children. Initially, López Contreras permitted political parties to come into the open, but they tended to become rambunctious and he proscribed them, although he did not use strong repressive means (which weren’t necessary anyway) as the politicians that led them, called in Venezuelan historiography the "1928 Generation", did not yet have large popular followings. One of the reasons for this hard stance was that, during his first year as president, López Contreras was faced with a labor strike which paralyzed the oil industry in Zulia state in western Venezuela, whose capital was Maracaibo, where the most productive fields were located.

López Contreras had created a labor ministry and his representative there, Carlos Ramírez MacGregor, received orders to make a report of the situation, which confirmed the workers’ grievances. He also had instructions to declare the strike illegal, (which he did). Government forces made the workers return to their jobs, although after that incident the oil companies did start taking serious initiatives to improve conditions for Venezuelan workers. Among the notable goals of López Contreras was a campaign to eradicate malaria in the llanos. This task was finally accomplished during the following presidency through the use of DDT.

Two communists led the oil strike: Rodolfo Quintero and the oil worker Jesús Faría. The history of Marxism in Venezuela is rather complex, but a brief overview is that communism never sunk roots in Venezuela and its impact on mainstream politics was minimal. López Contreras tried to create a political movement called Cruzadas Cívicas Bolivarianas (Civic Bolivarian Crusades), but it did not pan out, for whatever he did had the taint of his background as a pillar of the Gómez regime. Even the name “crusades” was suspect with its clerical overtones. Constitutionally, López Contreras finished Gómez’s last term and in 1936 he was elected by the docile congress for the term ending in 1941.


El Nacional Newspaper reporting Isaias Medina coup

After a vote in the same congress for the 1941-1946 term, López Contreras handed power to his war minister and personal friend, the Andean general Isaías Medina Angarita, who in many ways made a strong foil to his predecessor. He was stout and good natured and did not make excessive demands on himself. Medina Angarita legalized all political parties, including the divided communists: some were hard-line, such as the Machado brothers of a traditional Caracas family; and others, gradualists or conciliatory, led by Luis Miquilena, a union leader who supported Medina’s step-by-step approach and for a time was allied to one of the Machado brothers. Under Medina there was an indirect democracy, which followed the 19th century custom of elections at the municipal council level. But Medina was committed to a still restricted but wider national democratic election. For that he had officialdom in all the Venezuelan states form a pro-government party named Partido Democratico Venezolana or PDV (Venezuelan Democratic Party).

The October 1945 Revolution

Carlos Delgado Chalbaud1

Carlos Delgado Chalbaud

In exile Betancourt had flirted with communism but he was realistic enough to understand that he wasn’t going to get very far along that path. Medina fostered the further professionalization of the Venezuelan officer corps. Among others, he sent Capt. Marcos Pérez Jiménez to the Peruvian military academy, which was reputed in Latin America as being very efficient, where the young Andean officer had as professor Gen. Manuel Odria, later to become dictator of Perú. Another Peruvian influence on Venezuelan politics was Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre, who tried to create an inter-American alliance of leftist anti-imperialist parties, which vaguely fitted Betancourt’s own program. Another up-and-coming officer was Carlos Delgado Chalbaud, the son of the anti-Gomez conspirator previously mentioned. Delgado Chalbaud had spent most of his life in France, where he studied engineering and later attended the St. Cyr military academy. He returned to Venezuela in 1939 and was promptly commissioned in the Venezuelan army by Lopez Contreras. Because of his background, Delgado was the undisputed leader of a group of conspirational officers, among whom the second most important was Pérez Jiménez.

As the 1945 elections approached, Betancourt, who knew how large his national political base was now, accepted Medina’s invitation to participate in them on the tacit understanding that the official candidate, Diogenes Escalante, would win with the support of Acción Democrática (AD), as Betancourt’s party had been named. In exchange, the following elections would be totally democratic. Escalante was party to this agreement, but on his return to Venezuela from Washington, where he was ambassador, to participate in his own election, he started mumbling and making incoherent statements. The man was insane! Medina then made a mistake, which was to choose a substitute for Escalante without consulting AD. Betancourt was incensed and thus it was that the strongest political party in Venezuela and the military conspirators, none of which had a rank higher than major, made a deal whose consequences were to be long-lasting. In October 1945, the military declared themselves in open rebellion in Caracas and Betancourt called on the people to stage a civilian uprising. Medina resigned, but it is generally acknowledged that the army, except for the rebels, was on his side and could have put down the pardo adecos as well as arrest the insubordinate officers. This is believable because the army was the making of Gomez and Lopez Contreras and even Medina. It was a disciplined institution. But there was the other historical antecedent and that was the long history of violence in Venezuelan politics during the previous century and Medina did not want a bloody civil war on his hands.

A junta formed, headed by Betancourt and with Delgado as Minister of Defence. Fully democratic elections were held for congress, in which it was shown that AD under Betancourt had indeed become the party of the vast majority of Venezuelans. Two other parties were founded: COPEI (Independent Electoral Committee), by the pro-clerical Rafael Caldera, whose party later was later re-baptized Social Christian COPEI; and URD (Republican Democratic Union), which was joined by Jóvito Villalba, considered one of the greatest orators in Venezuelan history, and made over practically into his personal party. Since the death of Gomez, the following governments had been gradually increasing oil taxes. In the junta, energy minister Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo decreed a 50-50 sharing agreement with the oil companies. The junta also took other daring measures. Catholic schools, which were the best in the country, were forced to close temporarily while a new national curriculum was elaborated. Agrarian reform was approved. But most noticeable was that bureaucracy, which previously had been kept at the barest possible minimum, made a phenomenal forward leap, and not just because of all the reforming that had to be done but also because AD had to reward its more prominent backers.

477px-President Gallegos

Romulo Gallegos

The white/pardo divide was in theory demolished although in practice not many pardos could fulfill even the lowest requirements for civil service, into which nevertheless many entered. A national educational campaign was inaugurated, but fundamentally, as the majority of Venezuelans were still illiterate, all this amounted to was that the few who could read would be teaching the many that could not. There was a national election for the presidency in 1947, which the adeco candidate, the talented novelist Romulo Gallegos, won, again by a huge margin. But at the time there was much discontent in the middle class, which was Caldera’s base of support—he got 262,000 votes—not to speak of the upper crust; and of course the officers who had ushered AD into power were on the lookout for the main chance. There was no particular incident that set off the bloodless 1948 coup, which was led by Delgado Chalbaud. There was no popular opposition. This might have meant that the odds were too great or that the pardo masses had not noticed any particular improvement in their lives despite the incessant government propaganda. All prominent adecos were expelled. The other parties were allowed but muzzled.

It is often said is that Delgado Chalbaud was planning to restore Venezuelan democracy. If that was his intention, he did not get the chance to accomplish it. One day in November 1950, as he was being driven unescorted through a wooded part of Caracas towards the presidential palace, he was cut off by cars and kidnapped. His captors took him to an isolated house in southern Caracas. All versions of this incident are more or less agreed that someone’s gun went off wounding the leader of the kidnappers, that Delgado was then hustled out of the car and he confronted his abductors, and that finally they shot him to death. The main kidnapper, who was bleeding badly, was soon captured and later, in the then official version, he was killed trying to flee. Many do not accepts this version, which is why it is widely believed that it was his political partner, Pérez Jiménez, who had Delgado Chalbaud assassinated.

Pérez Jiménez dictatorship

Marcos Evangelista Pérez Jiménez was born in Michelena, Táchira State. His father, Juan Pérez Bustamante, was a farmer; his mother, Adela Jiménez, a schoolteacher. Pérez Jiménez attended school in his home town and in Colombia, and in 1934, he graduated from the Academia Militar de Venezuela, at the top of his class. He subsequently studied at
Perez Jimenez

Marcos Perez Jimenez

military colleges in Peru.

In 1945, Pérez Jiménez participated in a coup that helped install left wing Democratic Action party founder, Rómulo Betancourt, as President of the Revolutionary Government Junta. After a constitutional change providing universal suffrage, elections were held in 1947 which resulted in the election of party member, Romulo Gallegos. Fears of cuts in pay for military men, reduction and lack of modernization of army equipment led Pérez Jiménez and Lt. Colonel Carlos Delgado Chalbaud to stage another coup in 1948 (Chalbaud has always been incorrectly referred to by his father's last names. Carlos Chalbaud's name was Carlos Roman Chalbaud Gomez). Betancourt and Gallegos were exiled, political parties were suppressed, and the Communist Party was once again banished by the Military Junta headed by Delgado Chalbaud, and included Pérez Jiménez. After a clumsily arranged kidnaping that ended in the murder of Delgado Chalbaud, the Military Junta changed its name to a Government Junta, and reorganized itself with Pérez Jiménez pulling the string of puppet President, Germán Suárez Flamerich. Results of the much anticipated 1952 elections were showing signs of rejection of the military government; it is widely believed that the junta fixed the results to show Pérez Jiménez as the winner.

The junta called an election for 1952. When early results showed that the opposition leader was ahead and would win, the junta suspended the election and made Pérez provisional president on the 2nd of December, 1952. He became president on the 19th of April, 1953. Soon afterward, he enacted a constitution that gave him dictatorial powers.

Pérez Jiménez (widely known as "P.J.") changed the name of the country, which had been "United States of Venezuela" since 1864, to "Republic of Venezuela". This name would remain until today

During his government, Pérez Jiménez undertook many infrastructure projects, including construction of roads, bridges, government buildings, large public housing complexes and the symbolic Humboldt Hotel overlooking Caracas. The economy of Venezuela developed rapidly during his term. Like most dictators, Pérez was not tolerant of criticism and his government ruthlessly pursued and suppressed the opposition. Opponents of his regime were painted as communists and often treated brutally. While Pérez was president of Venezuela, the government of the United States awarded him the U.S. Legion of Merit.

Pérez Jiménez, unlike most Venezuelans, received a thorough education from the military academies he had attended and graduated from with highest honors. By the time he came to power, Pérez Jiménez had developed a flair for fascist opulence and boasting about his projects in making Venezuela the major power of South America. The greatest of Venezuelan writers at the time (and for a long time after that) was Arturo Uslar Pietri and he became famous on television with analytical biographies of great historical figures. Uslar Pietri had a felicitous phrase: “Sow the oil”, which became a national slogan meaning that the state’s oil income should be productively invested. But in Venezuela “sowing the oil” implied “sowers” and the country did not have too many of these. In fact, it was the undeclared understanding that “sowing the oil” really meant “give Venezuelans employment by creating government jobs”.

He was a megalomaniac of much character that when a Time magazine interviewer asked him what Rome’s greatest legacy was, he said, : “Its ruins”, apparently wanting to give the impression that while the ruins of Rome were all that remained of its greatness, his own will surpass them with his grand-scale building projects.
Torres del Silencio

Simon Bolivar Towers

The other reason for Pérez Jiménez’s "ruins revelation" was that what he intended to do as president, apart from becoming rich, which he did, like Gomez, with his own military and civilian cronies, was to build and build and build, and here too he was undeniably successful.

With the purpose of World War II and of the Spanish War Civil many European and Arabs with the necessity to leave their homes in search of freedom. They wanted to find a new horizon, others to evade the hunger and many looked for a place where to remake their lives. And a calm Venezuela, where a planned growth was developed, in the construction of great infrastructures, an expansion of the internal market and the agricultural modernization embarked mainly to a large extent towards Venezuela. They find a perfect ground to forget the war and to take roots. Thus they were arriving Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Bulgarian, Germans, Hungarian, Dutch, Syrians, Lebanese and Russian, among others colonies of Europe devastated by the extreme hunger and the War. Between all the groups of colonies of Italian the most numerous Emigrants they were the one of, the Spanish, and Portuguese. The 3 shared similar reasons to leave their nations: the flight of a dictatorial regime, the atrocities of the postwar period, the Hunger, the unemployment and the search of so yearned for economic stability. The majority arrived in boat at the port of the Guaira in the Venezuelan Caribbean. According to archives of the Arquidiocesana Office of Caracas, between 1951 and 1958 the 200,000 Galicians and Canarians arrived at the country, who were inserted in offices like agriculture, carpentry, masonry and public transport. After the first stage of adaptation, many became small industralists dedicated to the commerce, the finances and the industry, mainly in the metallurgical one and manufactures. Venezuela needed agriculturists. A deficit of production of 55 thousand annual tons of sugar existed and of 50 thousand tons of rice, among others products, and were required to cover the demand with internal production. In addition, it increased the operation oil, reason why many Venezuelans left the field to dedicate themselves to the lucrative activity in the cities, and this emptiness was profiteer by the immigrants. The same happened in the construction, sector in which also found a niche of important market. Each colony went dedicating itself to one " speciality" related to the activities that were developed in their country of origin. He was as well as the Galicians dedicated themselves to produce vegetables, the canarians to the banana commerce and Italian on sale of meat and the other foods, Dutch and the Germans to inlays and cheeses, the Portuguese to the bread and milk. Later, many of them were transformed into retailers, Today calculates that 72 percent of the bakeries in Venezuela are in Portuguese hands. At the end of the 50s the Francoism Spain crossed one of its worse economic crises. The life became more difficult and new explosions took place. Hundreds of Spaniards of ages that oscillated between the 16 and 45 years filled the warehouses of the boats towards America, and especially towards the most promising destiny: Oil Venezuela, the Earth of the Dorado. In all the cases, workers, day laborers of the field and on the sector of the construction. It was the manpower that needed the Government general Marcos Perez-Jiménez for the transformation of the country that was undertaken decidedly in those years.

Pérez Jiménez also had an efficient secret police, but the stories about tortures and killings were, like those about Gomez, mainly inventions by the frustrated Accion Democratica, although whoever in Venezuela tried to be active clandestinely was sure to be either imprisoned or shot if he resisted.

Pérez Jiménez was up for reelection in 1957, but dispensed with these formalities. Instead, he held a plebiscite in which voters could only choose between voting "yes" or "no" to another term for the president. Predictably, Pérez Jiménez won by a large margin, though by all accounts the count was blatantly rigged.

On the last day of 1957, a military uprising coordinated by officers of air and tank forces struck, but the coordination was not that good. The air force rebels flew over Caracas and dropped randomly some bombs while a commander started out from Maracay with a column of tanks. Somehow the signals got crossed, the tanks turned back, and the pilots fled the country. These officers probably thought that Pérez Jiménez would turn tail in the face of this demonstration, but the bulk of the armed forces remained loyal. However, this show of defiance did set off a sequence of events which eventually made Pérez Jiménez fear for his political survival. The Americans knowing that they might lost their dictator in Venezuela send troops to Venezuela where they managed to stop the movements.



Guyana had large iron deposits. The infrastructure for exploiting them was laid as well as the complementary huge steelworks. Communications had been a priority and Venezuela was endowed with a network of roads and bridges that covered the territory where over 90% of the population lived. Half or more of these were improved surface and all they lacked was the asphalt paving. This system linked with the many blacktops that the oil companies had built in eastern and western Venezuela. These had been traced for exploration and exploitation, but they also served for the use of the general population and were now linked to the national highway system. Pérez Jiménez had built motorways from Caracas to Valencia and from Caracas to the port at La Guaira. By 1955, you could drive from one end to the other of Venezuela in a matter of days where before it would have taken weeks, months if the rainy season hampered travel. In addition, Pérez Jiménez had begun the construction of a coherent railway system, although he had not had time to go further than the railroad from Puerto Cabello to Barquisimeto. Pérez Jiménez had also created government subsidiaries, called “institutos autónomos” (autonomous institutes)—the “autonomous” was supposed to mean non-political, but its real function was to allow them to negotiate foreign loans—that were to build waterworks and electric power plants in all important urban centers. To this end he had started the construction the huge Caroni river dam which in time was to provide the entire country with a reliable electric grid.

When he's time at power was going to end he did another elections for the period 1963-1969, which he wins, but like in 1957 just some people believe the results.

The Earthquake

The 1967 Caracas earthquake occurred on 29 July 1967 at 20:00 local time, and was centered near the coast about 30 miles west of Caracas, capital of Venezuela with a magnitude of 6.5. When the earth stopped shaking, about 240 inhabitants were dead and hundreds injured and buried in the rubble where homes and offices once stood. Over $100 million property damage was incurred in the Caracas area and about 80,000 persons were left homeless.

Damage was extensive in the Altamira and Los Palos Grandes sections of Caracas where four major apartment buildings, 10 to 12 stories high, collapsed. Many additional structures were severely damaged and several will have to be razed and reconstructed.

Huge sections of walls fell from buildings, flattening cars below and leaving large portions of structures exposed. Rescue workers used cranes and bulldozers to search through the rubble for survivors or victims of the earthquake. A week after the shock, rescue operations continued for persons believed trapped beneath the floors of the coast resort hotel, Mansion Charaima.

Maracay, about 50 miles west of Caracas, reported five deaths and 100 injuries. Several additional towns reported structural damage.

Government & Politics


Venezuela is a country in the north of South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea. It is bounded on the south by Brazil, and on the west by Colombia. Venezuela has a total area of 916,445 sq km (353,841 sq mi) and a land area of 882,050 sq km (340,560 sq mi), about twice the size of California. Shaped roughly like an inverted triangle, the country has a 2800 km (1700 mi) coastline.

With 2800 km (1740 mi) of coastline, there is a variety of landscapes. The extreme northeastern extensions of the Andes reach into Venezuela's northwest and continue along the northern Caribbean coast. Pico Bolívar, the nation's highest point at 4,979 metres (16,335 ft), lies in this region. The country's center is characterized by the llanos, which are extensive plains that stretch from the Colombian border in the far west to the Orinoco River delta in the east.

To the south, the dissected Guiana Highlands contains the northern fringes of the Amazon Basin and Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall as well as tepuis, large table-like mountains. The Orinoco, with its rich alluvial soils, binds the largest and most important river system of the country; it originates in one of the largest watersheds in Latin America. The Caroníand the Apure are other major rivers.

The Insular Region includes all of Venezuela's island possessions: Nueva Esparta and the various Federal Dependencies. TheDeltaic System, which forms a triangle covering Delta Amacuro, projects northeast into the Atlantic Ocean.

The country can be further divided into ten geographical areas, some corresponding to climatic and biogeographical regions. In the north are the Venezuelan Andes and the Coro region, a mountainous tract in the northwest, holds several sierras and valleys. East of it are lowlands abutting Lake Maracaibo and the Gulf of Venezuela. The Central Range runs parallel to the coast and includes the hills surrounding Caracas; the Eastern Range, separated from the Central Range by the Gulf of Cariaco, covers all of Sucre and northern Monagas.

See also

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