THE THIRD WORLD NATION OF VENEZUELA Venezuela, officially Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is the sixth largest country in South America, unique in landscape, flora, fauna, and wild life that rival the larger nations in South America. In fact, due to it's uniqueness, Venezuela is as much a Caribbean country as it is a South American one. Geography & Climate: Venezuela lies at the northern extreme of South America, bordered by Columbia to the West, Brazil to the South, Guyana to the East, and the Caribbean Sea to the North. The country is just over 900,000 square kilometers, divided into 23 states. The area includes stretches of the Andes Mountains, huge areas of Amazonian rain forest, fertile plains, miles of Caribbean shoreline and even a small desert.

The nation also has two geographical superlatives, the world's highest waterfall and South America's biggest lake. Because of its proximity to the Equator, Venezuela experiences few climatic variations, just two seasons, dry [December to April] and wet [May to November] and an average temperature of 27 C. Economy: Whatever economic development has occurred in Venezuela, is largely due to the enormous natural resources of oil. The country was the world's third largest exporter of oil, its ninth largest producer of oil, and accounted for more oil reserves than any other nation in the Western Hemisphere. The national petroleum company, Venezuelan Petroleum Corporation was also the third largest international conglomerate.

In 1973 the Organization of Oil producing countries succeeded in raising the price of oil drastically, a major boost to the economy. If you meet a business traveler in Venezuela, there's a good chance they work in the petroleum industry. Because of its immense mineral wealth, Venezuela in 1990 was poised to become an international leader in the export of coal, iron, steel, and aluminum. The country's gross domestic product in 1988 was approximately US $58 billion, or roughly US $3,100 per capita.

Although the petroleum industry has dominated the Venezuelan economy since the 1920's, aluminum, steel, and petrochemicals are catching up. As long as there is a class system separating the rich from the poor and unstable government, and a high birth rate, the oil reserves cannot take the country out of it's third world grouping with South America. Although corrupt politicians and drug cartels can taint tourism, the diversification may be what Venezuela needs to keep off International Welfare Assistance. Maybe the United States could enter into a trade agreement and swap for oil for aid money.

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