Venezuela, United States of (Span. pron. Venaythooay'la), a northern tropical republic of South America, on the Caribbean Sea. The total area is slightly over 417,000 sq. m.; the official returns (extending the area at the expense of Colombia and British Guiana) make it 594,000 sq. m. Trinidad and Tobago islands belong to Britain. Venezuela is a land of mountains and valleys in the west and north, of lower mountains and wooded hills in the south, of llanos between the Orinoco and the northern ranges, and of lake and swamp and forest (much of it pestiferous and uninhabitable) in the north-west. The Andes enter the country south of Lake Maracaybo, and push north-eastward as the Cordillera de Merida (15,500 feet). In Mount Roraima (q.v.) the frontiers of Guiana, Brazil, and Venezuela meet. Innumerable streams find a way over waterfalls and rapids to the Orinoco (q.v.), chief of the eight river systems of the country. The climate is moist; the temperature varies from freezing-point above the snowline to great heat in the coast-towns, valleys, and llanos. There are no active volcanoes, but earthquakes have done great damage - as in 1893 at Merida. Almost everywhere the country is abundantly watered. Vegetation in the hotter region is luxuriant beyond description. In the temperate region coffee is produced. The people are mostly half-breeds - mulattoes or mestizoes (i.e. of crossed white and Indian blood). Pure negroes (mainly on the coast) or whites are few: the latter form perhaps 1 per cent. of the pop.
Venezuela contains rich mineral deposits, as yet scarcely tapped, except for the Yuruari goldmines, the Aroa copper-mine, the government salt-mines, and coal near Barcelona. Near Lake Maracaybo there are great supplies of petroleum and coal. Gold to the value of £349,234 was produced in 1890, but in 1900 the total was only £63,904. In 1902 there were about 530 miles of railway, besides 3900 miles of telegraph lines and several telephone systems. Most of the over-sea trade is in the hands of foreigners, German and other. The chief export (over two-thirds of the total exports) is coffee; next follow cocoa, gold, hides, cattle, sugar, cotton, copper, dye-woods, etc. The imports (over a fourth from Britain) are flour, cotton, linen, woollen, and jute goods, iron, machinery, etc. The exports have an annual value of about £5,000,000, the imports over £3,000,000. In 1881 Venezuela - formerly comprising twenty-one states and their territories -was redivided into eight large states, eight territories, and the federal district of Caracas (the capital). The pop. in 1881 numbered 2,075,245; in 1891, 2,323,527; of these 326,000 are Indians, and 35,000 foreigners. The revenue (mostly from customs duties) and the expenditure nearly balance each other at from £1,500,000 to £1,800,000. The national debt is £4,572,000. The army numbers 7280, and there is a militia. The principal cities are Caracas, Valencia, Maracaybo, Barquisimeto, Tocuyo, Maturin, and La Guayra. The coast was visited by Columbus in 1498, and next year the name Venezuela ('Little Venice') was given to an Indian village built on piles seen by Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci. Settlements were made in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the country was plundered by Spanish governors till 1810, when the revolt began which under Bolivar's guidance ended in 1821 in independence of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The only tolerably good government was in 1870-77 under Blanco, president and dictator. See a German work by Sievers (1888) and a French work by Cazeneuve and Harani (1888).