History of Venezuela

From Academic Kids

This is the history of Venezuela. See also the history of South America and the history of present-day nations and states.


Spanish period

At the time of the Spanish arrival, the indigenous people were mainly agriculturists and hunters living in groups along the coast, the Andean mountain range, and along the Orinoco River. Nueva Cádiz, the first permanent Spanish settlement in South America, was established in Venezuela in 1522.

An abortive plan for German settlement from German Habsburg lands, to be financed through the Fugger bankers, never came to fruition. By the middle of the 1500s there were still little more than 2,000 Europeans in what is now Venezuela. The opening of gold mines at Yaracuy led to the introduction of slavery, at first with the indigenous population, then with imported Africans. The first real success of the colony was the raising of livestock, much helped by the grassy plains known as llanos. The society that developed as a result — a handful of Spanish landowners and widely-dispersed Indian herdsmen on Spanish-introduced horses — was so primitive that it recalls feudalism, certainly a powerful concept in the 16th-century Spanish imagination, and perhaps more fruitful economic comparison to the latifundia of Antiquity.

During the 1500s and 1600s, the provinces which constitute today's Venezuela were relatively neglected. The Viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru (located on the sites formerly occupied by the capital cities of the Aztecs and Incas) were more interested in their nearby gold and silver mines than in the agricultural socities of Venezuela. Responsibility for the Venezuelan territories shifted between the two Viceroyalties.

In the 18th century, a second Venezuelan society formed along the coast when cocoa plantations were established, this time manned by much larger importations of African slaves. Quite a number of black slaves were also to be found in the haciendas of the grassy llanos. (Brito Figueroa 1966)

In the 18th century, the province of Venezuela was under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (created in 1717), since 1777 as Captaincy General of Venezuela. The Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas held a close monopoly on trade with Europe.

  • Brito Figueroa, Federico, Historia económica y social de Venezuela, vol I,1966

19th century: independence

The Venezuelans began to grow restive under colonial control toward the end of that century. They achieved home rule after a coup on April 19, 1810, and later declared independence from Spain on July 5, 1811. The war for independence ensued. On December 17, 1819 the Congress of Angostura established Gran Colombia's independence from Spain. After several more years of war, which killed half of Venezuela's white population, the country achieved independence from Spain in 1821 under the leadership of its most famous son, Simón Bolívar. Venezuela, along with what are now Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador, was part of the Republic of Gran Colombia until 1830, when Venezuela separated and became a sovereign country.

Much of Venezuela's 19th century history was characterized by periods of political instability, dictatorial rule of the caudillos, and revolutionary turbulence.

20th century

The first half of the 20th century was marked by periods of authoritarianism — including dictatorships from 1908 to 1935 and from 1948 to 1958. The Venezuelan economy shifted after World War I from a primarily agricultural orientation to an economy centered on petroleum production and export.

Since the overthrow of Gen. Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958 and the military's withdrawal from direct involvement in national politics, Venezuela has enjoyed an unbroken tradition of civilian democratic rule, of which Rómulo Betancourt, president from 1958–1964, laid the foundation. Until the 1998 elections, the Social Democratic Acción Democrática (AD) and the Christian Democratic Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente (COPEI) parties dominated the political environment at both the state and federal level.

27 February 1989 saw a wave of protests, riots and looting known as the Caracazo.

Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution

Main articles: Hugo Chávez and Bolivarian Revolution

Hugo Chávez, a former paratroop lieutenant-colonel who led an unsuccessful coup d'état in 1992, was elected President in December 1998 on a platform that called for the creation of a "Fifth Republic", a new constitution, a new name ("the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela"), and a new set of social relations between socioeconomic and racial classes. In 1999, voters approved a referendum on a new constitution, and in 2000, re-elected Chávez, also placing many members of his Movement for the Fifth Republic political party in the National Assembly. Supporters of Chávez call the process symbolised by him the Bolivarian Revolution, and organise themselves in open, local, participatory assemblies called Bolivarian Circles.


Main articles: Venezuelan coup attempt of 2002 and Venezuelan recall referendum, 2004

Chávez has faced strong opposition to his populist policies, particularly in the media, oil industry and middle class. A business-labor general work stoppage was called in December 2001, followed by an attempted coup in April 2002, and another general work stoppage in December 2002, this one shutting down the state oil company PDVSA for two months and crippling the Venezuelan economy.

In August, 2004, Chávez faced a recall referendum, but 59% of the voters voted to allow Chávez to remain in office. Some elements of the political opposition and certain foreign goverments (including the United States of America, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom) disputed the fairness of the vote count. Although both the Organization of American States and the Carter Center certified the voting results as representative of the actual votes cast, the voting process itself wasn't certified (although Jimmy Carter did state that in his opinion it was fairer than the voting process in Florida during the 2000 US Presidential election).

See also

External link

de:Geschichte Venezuelas es:Historia de Venezuela fr:Histoire du Venezuela pt:História da Venezuela


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