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Country information: Venezuela



912 050 square kilometres


26,81 million (July 2009)

Capital city

Caracas (2,8 million inhabitants 2006)

Official language


GDP per capita (PPP)

US-$ 13 500 (2008)

Population growth

1.5 per cent (2009)

Life expectancy

73,6 years (men: 70,5 years, women: 76,8 years) (2009)

Infant mortality

21,5 per 1 000 live births (2009)

Rate of illiteracy

7 % (2003)




Dense rain forests, Caribbean beaches, the Orinoco flow and the Andes offer tourists an abundance of riches. Tourism is an important source of foreign currency for Venezuela. According to UNWTO in the year 2004 approximately 492 000 guests came into the country and paid 387 million Euro.


Commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism

Together with other factors, tourism has led to an expansion of the leisure infrastructure. This in turn has triggered a growth in prostitution and human trafficking. Prostitution is also promoted by the economic hardships faced by large parts of the population. Children of poor families fall for the promises of traffickers that they will find well-paid jobs waiting for them in the cities. But all too often they end up as victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The same fate threatens the street children. In 1995, Venezuela had a total of 350 000 registered prostitutes. About one-fifth of them are from Venezuela, and many are brought in from Ecuador. For example, in 1998 200 Ecuadorian children aged between nine and seventeen were held in a single bordello where they were forced into prostitution until freed by the police.


Venezuela ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on September 14, 1990, and has undertaken to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.


HIV / Aids

With the spread of prostitution, there are also fears of an increase in the frequency of HIV and AIDS. According to estimates by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, at the end of 2007 approximately 110.000 people in Venezuela were infected with HIV, including 31.000 women. How many children were infected, could not be estimated. In the same year 6.100 Venezuelans died following infection with HIV.


Local Contacts


Defence for Children International - Venezuela

(Defensa de los ninos Internacional - DNJ seccion Venezuela)

Calle Gil Fortoul,

Quinta "Curucha" No. 21-20

Urbanizacion Santa Monica,

Caracas 1041, Venezuela

Phone: +58 2 661 1873

Fax: +58 2 661 1873


Coalición Contra El Tráfico de Mujeres

(Coalition Against Trafficking in Women - Venezuela)

Coalición Contra el Tráfico de

Mujeres Urb. Montalban, Res. Uslar,

E-2, Apto. 12

Final Calle 12 C/2DA,

Avenida, Caracas 1021, Venezuela

Phone: +58 2 442 32 90

Fax: +58 2 442 32 90




State and society

Venezuela is a presidential republic with federal elements. Head of state is a president elected directly by the people. There is a National Assembly, and a Federal Council with representatives from the 23 states as an advisory body. The constitution contains a catalogue of basic rights, including special provisions for the 316 000 indigenous inhabitants.  


The Venezuelan Constitution was written only recently, and was introduced in 1999 by the current president and former coup leader Chávez. His election was the result of a widespread rejection of the traditional parties, who were seen as having traditionally divided the spoils of power amongst themselves and sunken ever deeper into corruption and cronyism. In addition to his core supporters in the slums, he also found support from large sections of the disgruntled middle classes. Since taking office, Chávez has attempted to make significant changes to Venezuela’s political landscape. His new “Bolivarian“ constitution is liberal and includes a number of legal reforms. Social divisions have nonetheless become starker in the last few years.


Since the financial and banking crises in spring 1994, the economy has been in crisis. Growing inflation, unemployment and resulting mass poverty have led to social tensions. The situation was worsened in 1999 by catastrophic landslides in the coastal region which left 50,000 dead and 200,000 homeless. The worsening of the economy since 2002 has been another blow.


Venezuelan society is one of sharp contrasts. Some two-thirds of the population are mestizo and mulattos, some 316 000 people have indigenous origins. The whites are mainly of Spanish and Italian origins.

95 per cent are Roman-Catholics, and three per cent are Protestants.


Venezuela has a well-structured state and private school and higher education system. There is nine years compulsory schooling, but attendance rates are only about 60 per cent. This is the reason for an illiteracy rate of about ten per cent. In order to improve this figure, the government has set up 2000 so-called "Bolivarian Schools". 



The Venezuelan economy has benefited from the increased exploitation of oil resources since the 1920s. The state-owned oil industry is still the most important sector of the economy, and this one-sided dependence means that the economic situation rises and falls with the oil price.

Zudem hat es Venezuela nicht verstanden, die Einnahmen aus der Erdölförderung zur nachhaltigen Entwicklung der Wirtschaft aufzuwenden. Vielmehr leidet die Industrie seit den 70er Jahren unter einer Erstarrung der Strukturen und Veralterung der Anlagen. War vor dreißig Jahren Venezuela noch das reichste Land Lateinamerikas, befindet es sich heute nur noch im Mittelfeld. Eine Fortschreitende Deindustrialisierung verstärkt das ohnehin bereits gravierende Problem der Arbeitslosigkeit und beschert dem Land seit der Finanz- und Bankenkrise 1994 eine anhaltend sehr schwierige Situation. Ende 2002 verschärfte sich die Situation ein weiteres Mal, was unter anderem in dem Generalstreik 2002/2003 mündete. Der jüngste Anstieg der Ölpreise 2004 entspannt die Lage aktuell wieder.

Other industrial sectors include foodstuffs, chemicals, metals and mining, and textiles. The main agricultural crops are maize, rice, coffee, cotton, and sugar cane.