Venezuela

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Overview

Authoritarian rule characterized Venezuela’s political climate throughout much of the 20th century, when two dictators brought repression from 1908-1935 and from 1950-1958. After World War I, Venezuela’s economy shifted from one of agriculture to one of oil production and export, and this brought an increased standard of living to the country. But the period of stability that began in 1958 ended in 1989, when rioting in Caracas killed more than 200 people. Hugo Chávez led an unsuccessful coup to overthrow the president in 1992, and eventually took over the leadership of Venezuela, when he was elected president in 1998, ushering in a new age in Venezuelan politics.

 
His broad reforms and a crackdown on corruption have made Chávez a populist hero. He was re-elected in 2000 and 2006, though in April 2002, Chávez was taken into custody during a brief coup attempt by business leader Pedro Carmona, who swore himself in as interim president. Days later, loyalist troops returned Chávez to power. Chávez has sworn to bring “21st century socialism” to the country, and has taken several steps to nationalize major industrial sectors, such as electricity, telecommunications and oil. Although a referendum in December 2007 limited what many saw as an attempt by Chávez to consolidate his powers, he continues to make strong and sometimes unsubstantiated claims against foreign governments, including the United States.
 
With the decline of Fidel Castro in Cuba, Chávez has become Public Enemy No. 1 for the United States when it comes to Latin America. The bombastic leftist leader has challenged Washington, DC, especially during the administration of George W. Bush, like no other leader in the Western Hemisphere. Recent controversies have included the breach of Venezuelan airspace by a US anti-drug plane; the presence of Russian bombers in Venezuela to conduct training missions; Venezuela’s expelling of the US Ambassador amid accusations of fomenting a coup against Chávez; Venezuela’s making the US State Department’s report on terrorism; Chávez’s firing of the Venezuelan counsel in Houston after it did not receive proper US authorization; the expelling from Venezuela of a US evangelical group; and American religious broadcaster Pat Robertson’s calling for the assassination of Hugo Chávez to keep his country from becoming “a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.”
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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Venezuela is situated on the north coast of South America and can be divided into four distinct geographical areas: the Andes in the northwest, the long Atlantic and Caribbean coastlines, the central plains, or llanos, and the dense, forbidding jungle in the southeast that makes up nearly half the country.

 
Population: 26.4 million
 
Religions: Catholic 91.9%, Protestant 2.6%, Spiritist 1.1%, Ethnoreligious 0.7%, Baha’i 0.6%, Muslim 0.3%, Jewish 0.2%, Buddhist 0.1%, non-religious 2.5%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, Amerindian.
 
Languages: Spanish (official) 85.9%, Wayuu 0.7%, Warao 0.07%, Piaroa 0.05%, Maquiritari 0.02%. There are 40 living languages in Venezuela.
 
 
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History
Venezuela was settled by indigenous people who used agriculture and hunting to sustain their communities along the coast, the Andean Mountain range, and the Orinoco River. The first Spaniards came to the region in 1522, and set up a permanent settlement at Nuevo Toledo.
 
Although the Spanish colonized Venezuela at that time, it was a relatively neglected colony throughout the 1500s and 1600s. Instead, Spain spent these years concentrating its efforts in extracting gold and silver from other colonies. By the end of the 18th century, Venezuelans began to grow tired of Spanish colonial rule, and in 1821, after several unsuccessful uprisings, Venezuela gained independence from Spain. Simón Bolívar, hero of the revolution, became the nation’s first leader.
 
One of Bolívar’s first orders of business was to join with Colombia, Panama and Ecuador to form the Republic of Gran Colombia. This lasted until 1830, when Venezuela became a sovereign nation with its own political system.
 
Much of the country’s history during the 19th century was characterized by instability, turbulence and dictatorial control. The 20th century wasn’t much better, as dictators controlled the country from 1908-1935 and from 1950-1958. After World War I, Venezuela’s economy shifted from one of agricultural production to one of petroleum production and export.
 
General Marcos Peréz Jiménez, the second of Venezuela’s 20th century dictators, was overthrown in 1958, and the military withdrew from national politics. Since that time, Venezuela has had a system of civilian democratic rule that has earned it a reputation as one of the most stable Latin American countries.
 
However, this period of relative stability came to an end in 1989, when rioting in Caracas killed more than 200 people. An economic austerity program, launched by then-President Carlos Andres Peréz, was unpopular among Venezuelans, and in 1992, a group of army lieutenant colonels led by Hugo Chávez launched an unsuccessful coup attempt. They claimed that the events of 1989 proved that the political system was no longer serving the needs of the people. In November of that year, another coup attempt followed, and a year later, Congress impeached Peréz on corruption charges.
 
In December 1998, Chávez won the presidency on a campaign for broad reform, constitutional change, and a crackdown on corruption. These policies found widespread acceptance, especially among the country’s poorest people. The National Constituent Assembly (ANC), consisting of 131 elected individuals, almost of all whom were loyal to Chávez, convened in August 1999 to begin rewriting the constitution. Venezuelans approved the ANC’s draft in a national referendum on December 15, 1999.
 
In July 2000, following a long and controversial process, voters re-elected Chávez as president. But two years later, an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 people marched in downtown Caracas to demand his resignation. Gunfire broke out, resulting in as many as 18 deaths and more than 100 injuries on both sides.
 
Military officers took Chávez into custody, and business leader Pedro Carmona swore himself in as interim President. On April 14, military troops loyal to Chávez returned him to power. A national reconciliation process, with participation by the Organization of American States, the UN Development Program, and the Carter Center, was unsuccessful in stopping further conflict.
 
On December 2, 2002, opposition leaders called for a national work stoppage. Strikers protested the government and called for the resignation of Chávez. The oil sector joined other sectors of the economy and effectively shut down all economic activity for a month. On December 16, 2002, the OAS Permanent Council passed Resolution 833, which called for a “constitutional, democratic, peaceful, and electoral solution” to the crisis in Venezuela. The strike finally ended in February 2003.
 
In September 2003, the Supreme Court named a new board of directors for the National Electoral Council (CNE). After months of intense deliberations, the CNE certified the opposition’s results and set the date of the recall referendum for August 15, 2004. According to the CNE, Chávez won 59% of the vote. His opponents immediately contested that the results were marked by electoral fraud. However, international electoral observation missions carried out by the Organization of American States and the Carter Center found no indication of voting irregularities.
 
Pro-Chávez candidates swept other electoral contests, including state governor positions and the majority of the seats in the August 2005 municipal council elections. Pro-Chávez candidates also won all 167 seats in the December 2005 National Assembly elections, after most opposition candidates withdrew one week before the elections over voter secrecy concerns. The final reports of the EU and OAS observer missions to the 2005 legislative elections, which were marked by record-high abstentions, noted high levels of distrust in electoral institutions.
 
Chávez was re-elected again in the December 3, 2006 presidential elections. Though international observers found no evidence of fraud during the elections, they did note concerns over abuse of government resources used to support the Chávez campaign, voter intimidation tactics, and manipulation of the electoral registry.
 
In January 2007, Chávez named a new vice president to the cabinet, and announced his efforts to implement “21st century socialism” for the country. He also asked the National Assembly to grant him special constitutional powers for 18 months, via an “enabling law” to rule by decree over a broad range of society. He subsequently received these powers.
 
Chávez has taken steps to nationalize the telecommunications and electricity sectors, and finalize a majority government share in many oil projects. All of these sectors enjoy heavy foreign investment. On August 15, 2007, he proposed a package of reforms to his own 1999 Constitution. These reforms,included measures that would have allowed indefinite presidential re-election, a reorganization of the geographic boundaries of government, and a redefinition of private property. On December 2, 2007, the proposed reforms were narrowly defeated in a public referendum after student groups, traditional opposition leaders, and former Chávez allies urged Venezuelans to reject the package. Many viewed this defeat as a rebuke to his efforts to consolidate power in office.
 
Gubernatorial and mayoral elections were held in November 2008. These state and local elections were deemed largely free and fair, although electoral nongovernmental organizations noted some irregularities, such as prohibited election day campaigning and extended polling hours in pro-government neighborhoods.
 
A Country Study: Venezuela (Library of Congress)

 

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Venezuela's Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with Venezuela

The United States established diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 1835, four years after Venezuela became independent from Spain, when John G. A. Williamson presented his credentials in Caracas.

 
The strategic relationship between Venezuela and the United States changed as rapidly as did Venezuela during the latter half of the 20th century. Before World War II, Venezuela was a relatively typical Latin American state, ruled by a succession of dictators and dependent on the cycles of an agriculturally-based economy. However, as its growing oil wealth changed and modernized Venezuelan society, Venezuela became a more important strategic consideration for the United States. As Venezuela began to develop its own limited sphere of influence, the US began to consider it as a potential strategic partner in the Caribbean area.
 
The basic strategic assumptions of the two countries, although not identical, were close enough to make possible a supportive and cooperative relationship during the 1960s. As an emerging democracy, Venezuela opposed authoritarian governments of both the right and the left. In the early 1960s, Venezuela came to share the US conviction that the Castro regime in Cuba presented the most compelling threat to the stability of Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuban backing of Venezuelan insurgents confirmed this belief. Counterinsurgency training provided by the US contributed to the successful quelling of the insurgency by the late 1960s.
 
During the 1970s, Venezuela and the US followed more divergent paths with regard to security matters. The global strategy of containing communism drew the United States into a debacle in Vietnam. As the prestige and perceived influence of the US waned, Venezuela moved to pursue policies of independent outreach to the Third World.
 
By the 1980s, Venezuela had grown even further away from the US. Nevertheless, the two countries continued to share certain basic strategic interests, including the safety and free passage of shipping through Caribbean sea-lanes, concern for the Caribbean region as a market for exports, and opposing the expansion of Cuban presence and influence.
 
Some of these shared interests came to the forefront in the debate that preceded the United States sale of F-16 jet fighters to the Venezuelan air force in 1983. Despite some concern expressed by such other regional powers as Colombia, the administration of President Ronald Reagan pushed for the sale on the grounds that Venezuela needed advanced aircraft to help protect the Caribbean sea-lanes, secure its oil resources against external attack, and help secure the approaches to the Panama Canal.
 
In 1996, Venezuela opened its petroleum sector to foreign investment, creating extensive trade and investment opportunities for US companies. As a result, Venezuela became one of the top four suppliers of foreign oil to the United States.
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Current U.S. Relations with Venezuela

Relations between the US and Venezuela are currently tense. Since he came to office, President Chávez has defined himself in opposition to the policies of the United States, and his rhetoric has been incendiary at times, particularly with regards to former President George W. Bush and the members of his cabinet. In a September 2006 speech before the UN General Assembly, Chávez called Bush “the Devil,” and other offensive names. On September 11, 2008, Chávez ordered the expulsion of the US Ambassador, in solidarity with the Bolivian government’s decision to expel the US Ambassador in La Paz. In retaliation, the US expelled the Venezuelan Ambassador to Washington.

 
In 2004 and early 2005, counter-narcotics cooperation between the US and Venezuela deteriorated significantly. Although opium poppy and coca cultivation, money laundering, and judicial corruption are major concerns, the Venezuelan National Guard removed its highly experienced members from the US-supported Prosecutor’s Drug Task Force. In March 2005, the government of Venezuela accused the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of espionage and terminated its cooperation pending negotiation of a new cooperation agreement. President Bush decertified Venezuela on counter-narcotics cooperation in 2005, 2006, and 2007.
 
Despite political troubles, the US and Venezuela enjoy deep commercial ties. About 500 US companies are represented in the country.The US is Venezuela’s most important trading partner, representing about 22% of imports and approximately 60% of Venezuelan exports. In turn, Venezuela is the United States’ third-largest export market in Latin America, purchasing American machinery, transportation equipment, agricultural commodities, and auto parts.
 
In the 2000 US Census, 91,507 people identified themselves as being of Venezuelan ancestry. Venezuelan communities have sprung up in New York, California, Texas, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland.
 
Approximately 23,000 US citizens living in Venezuela have registered with the US embassy, an estimated three-quarters of them residing in the Caracas area. An estimated 12,000 US tourists visit Venezuela annually.
 
In 2006, 88,825 Americans visited Venezuela. The number of Americans visiting Venezuela has fluctuated somewhat randomly since 2002 between a low of 66,711 (2003) and 89,701 (2005).
 
In 2006, 369,037 Venezuelans visited the US. After a large drop off in 2002, when 284,423 Venezuelans came to the US, the number of tourists has been increasing steadily.
 
In June 2008, Venezuela was listed at Tier 2 Watchlist status in the State Department’s Report on Trafficking In Persons. Tier 2 Watchlist status indicates that a country does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. It is, however, making significant efforts to do so, according to the State Department.
 
What soured the US-Venezuela alliance? (by Angelo Rivero Santos and Andrés Martinez, Los Angeles Times)
US-Venezuelan Relations (by Mary Crane, Council on Foreign Relations)
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Where Does the Money Flow

There is little doubt about what constitutes the most critical aspect of trade between the US and Venezuela. In 2008, the US imported $51 billion from the South American country—and $40 billion of that was crude oil. Oil imports have steadily risen this decade, from $17 billion in 2004, despite animosities between Caracas and Washington.

 
Other top imports from Venezuela included liquefied petroleum gases, moving up from $2.3 billion to $3.8 billion; iron and steel mill products, rising from $269.5 million to $544.7 million; and bauxite and aluminum, increasing from $193.1 million to $524.4 million.
 
American exports to Venezuela tally substantially less in total value, only $12.6 billion in 2008. No single export stands out like petroleum does for imports. Leading exports included wheat, increasing from $227.8 million to $396 million; corn, rising from $91.3 million to $314.6 million; plastic materials, moving up from $184.7 million to $238.7 million; and chemicals (organic), increasing from $677.6 million to $923.6 million.
 
US exports on the decline included petroleum products, decreasing from $645.1 million to $620.8 million; industrial engines, moving down from $524.1 million to $508.3 million; computer accessories, falling from $579.1 million to $562.2 million; and passenger cars, decreasing from $422.6 million to $194.9 million.
 
In 2007 the US gave Venezuela $2.6 million in aid. The budget allotted the most funds to Civil Society ($1.6 million), and the Andean Counterdrug Program ($1 million).
 
The 2008 budget estimate increased aid to $4.5 million, of which $4.49 million went to Civil Society.
 
The 2009 budget request will further increase aid to $5 million, which will be wholly dedicated to Civil Society. In the description of the distribution of “Governing Justly and Democratically” funds, the 2009 budget says, “USAID programs will help identify and support emerging democratic leaders.”
 
Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela reject US trade (by Anita Snow, Associated Press)
Castro, Chávez Malign US Trade Policies (by Bill Cormier, Washington Post)
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Controversies

Chávez Fires Houston Counsel in US

In November 2008, President Hugo Chávez fired the Venezuelan consul in Houston for violating rules on opening new offices. This office is important because Houston is the hub for much of the country’s oil business in the US. The United States government said it invited Venezuelan personnel to leave the country after a new base for the Houston consulate was set up without receiving appropriate US authorization. Chávez subsequently removed the counsel, and made overtures to incoming President Barack Obama to ease tensions.
 
Russian Bombers in Venezuela to Conduct Training Missions
In September 2008, two Russian bombers landed at a Venezuelan airfield to carry out training missions. The US announced plans to monitor the training missions, since they came at a time when relations between the United States and Russia had deteriorated in the wake of Russia’s invasion of the former Soviet republic of Georgia in August. Russia denied that the missions had anything to do with tense relations, and reiterated its position against a missile defense system the US was planning in Poland and the Czech Republic.
 
Venezuela Expels American Ambassador
In September 2008, President Hugo expelled the US ambassador and recalled his own ambassador from Washington. The move was in solidarity with Bolivia’s Evo Morales, who expelled the American ambassador for allegedly fomenting a coup d’etat by rich eastern landowners against him. Chávez also accused the US ambassador in Venezuela of backing a coup plot against him in 2002.
 
US Anti-Drug Plane Flies into Venezuelan Airspace
In May 2008, a US anti-drug aircraft flew into Venezuelan airspace, elevating tensions between the two nations. Though the pilot recognized his error and radioed the Venezuelan tower, Venezuela’s Defense Minister Gustavo Rangel Briceno said the country believed that the US intentionally violated its airspace, as a test. The pilot said it was a navigation error, and the US Embassy called it an isolated incident.
 
US Terror List Names Venezuela
In April 2008, the US State Department released its report on terrorism, naming Venezuela’s associations with terror states, Iran’s meddling in Iraq, and the resurgence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan as the top concerns of the US. President Hugo Chávez’s “sympathy” for Colombian rebels, as well as his lack of cooperation with US anti-terror efforts in the region have “deepened Venezuelan relationships with state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Cuba,” according to the report. The State Department stated that Venezuelan citizenship, identity and travel documents are easy for terrorists to obtain. Venezuelan officials called the report ridiculous and cited recent moves to biometric passports as one way they have tried to repair the problem.
 
Chávez Expels US Evangelical Group
In October 2005, President Hugo Chávez expelled a US evangelical group called New Tribes Mission, saying it was gathering politically sensitive and strategic information, as well as exploiting local Indians. The group had been operating among indigenous communities along the border with Colombia and Brazil since 1946, but Chávez believed that the group acted as a cover for the prospecting of geological and mineral wealth coveted by corporations.
Venezuela to Expel US Evangelical Group (by Humberto Márquez, IPS News)
 
Pat Robertson Calls for Hugo Chávez’s Assassination
In August 2005, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate President Hugo Chávez to stop his country from becoming “a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.” Robertson said, “You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.” Robertson previously made other controversial statements, such as suggesting that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device, and that feminism encourages women to “kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
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Human Rights

The State Department’s 2008 human rights report for Venezuela found that security forces had committed unlawful killings, including summary executions of criminal suspects. Prosecutors rarely brought cases against perpetrators of unlawful killings. Sentences frequently were light, and convictions often were overturned on appeal. Members of the security forces charged with or convicted of crimes rarely were imprisoned. Human rights groups claimed that police officers and military officials sometimes disposed of their victims’ bodies to avoid investigations. There also were credible reports that security forces continued to torture and abuse detainees.

 
Prison conditions were harsh due to scarce resources, poorly trained and corrupt prison staff, and violence by guards and inmates. Severe overcrowding in some prisons and food and water shortages remained problems. The government failed to provide adequate prison security. Violence among prison gangs, including shootouts and riots, was common. Prisoners also died as a consequence of poor diet and inadequate medical care. The media reported that in the Rodeo I penitentiary, 50 inmates had contracted hepatitis due to unsanitary prison conditions.
 
Inmates often had to pay guards and other inmates to obtain necessities such as space in a cell, a bed, and food. Many inmates also profited from exploiting and abusing others, particularly since convicted violent felons often were held with pretrial detainees or first-time petty offenders. Trafficking in arms and drugs fueled gang-related violence and extortion. Prison officials often illegally demanded payment from prisoners for transportation to judicial proceedings. Security forces and law enforcement authorities often imprisoned minors together with adults, even though separate facilities existed for juveniles.
Corruption was a major problem among all police forces, whose members were poorly paid and trained. Impunity for corruption, brutality, and other acts of violence were major problems.
 
A warrant is required for an arrest or detention, but persons were sometimes apprehended openly without warrants from judicial authorities.
 
Although there is a functioning system of bail, it is not available for certain crimes. Bail also may be denied if a person is apprehended in the act of committing a crime or if a judge determines that there is a danger that the accused may flee or impede the investigation.
 
Judicial independence remained compromised. The judiciary was also highly inefficient, sometimes corrupt, and subject to political influence, particularly from the Attorney General’s Office, which in turn was pressured by the executive branch.
 
The Supreme Court’s Judicial Committee may hire and fire temporary judges without cause and without explanation, as it often did. Provisional judges legally have the same rights and authorities as permanent judges. The provisional and temporary judges, lacking tenure in their profession, were particularly subject to political influence from the Ministry of Interior and Justice and the Attorney General.
 
Security forces were known to infringe on citizens’ privacy rights by searching homes without warrants, particularly targeting the homes of opposition leaders.
 
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press. However, the combination of laws governing libel and broadcast media content, legal harassment, and physical intimidation of both individuals and the media, resulted in practical limitations on these freedoms and a climate of self-censorship. The government employed a variety of mechanisms—legal, economic, regulatory, judicial, physical, and rhetorical—to harass the private media and engender an environment of intolerance towards any critical press.
 
Government officials, including Chávez in some instances, used government-controlled media outlets to air unsubstantiated accusations against private media owners, including Alberto Federico Ravell, director of all-news cable television network Globovision; Miguel Henrique Otero, director of El Nacional newspaper; and Andres Mata, director of El Universal. The accusations alleged that these media owners were fomenting destabilization campaigns and coup attempts against the government.
 
The law requires that practicing journalists have journalism degrees and be members of the National College of Journalists, and it prescribes three-to six-month jail terms for those who practice journalism illegally.
 
Government supporters sometimes disrupted marches and rallies.
 
While the constitution provides for freedom of association and freedom from political discrimination, the government only partially respected this right. Although indicating that they generally operated without interference, professional and academic associations complained that the National Electoral Council (CNE) repeatedly interfered with their attempts to hold internal elections.
 
A September report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that the Chávez administration systematically engaged in political discrimination. According to HRW, “Government officials have removed scores of detractors from the career civil service, purged dissident employees from the national oil company, denied citizens access to social programs based on their political opinions, and denounced critics as subversives deserving of discriminatory treatment.”
 
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, on the condition that its practice does not violate public morality, decency, or the public order, and the government generally respected this right in practice. However, President Chávez engaged in numerous rhetorical personal attacks on specific Catholic bishops and the Papal Nuncio. He warned Catholic bishops to refrain from commenting on political issues.
 
Despite President Chávez’s overture to Jewish leaders, government institutions and officials, as well as government-affiliated media outlets promoted anti-Semitism through numerous anti-Semitic comments. These actions created a spillover effect into mainstream society, which witnessed a rise in anti-Semitic vandalism, caricatures, and expressions at rallies and in newspapers. Incidents of spraying of graffiti, intimidation, vandalism, and other physical attacks against Jewish institutions were frequent.
 
There were numerous reports that persons were denied passports and other official documents by government agencies for having signed the petition for the 2004 recall referendum.
 
The World Bank’s worldwide governance indicators reflected that government corruption was a problem. There was a perception of widespread corruption at all levels of the government. Journalists reported several cases of apparent corruption implicating high-level government officials, but none were investigated.
 
Many NGOs reported threats, physical attacks, and harassment, especially after  Chávez threatened to criminalize the receipt of foreign funding. Human rights organizations expressed concern that President Chávez’s proposed constitutional amendment to regulate international support for organizations with “political goals” would be used to deny NGOs foreign funding opportunities and limit nongovernmental activities in the country.
 
The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, but it remained a problem. A man guilty of raping a woman may avoid punishment if he marries the victim before sentencing.
 
Violence against women continued to be a problem, and women faced substantial institutional and societal prejudice with respect to rape and domestic violence. According to the Pan American Health Organization, 70% of women killed in the country were killed by their husbands, boyfriends, or ex-partners.
 
Sexual harassment was common in the workplace but rarely reported.
 
Reports of child abuse were rare due to a fear of entanglement with the authorities and ingrained societal attitudes regarding family privacy. According to UNICEF and NGOs working with children and women, child abuse, including incest, often occurred at home.
 
The human rights NGO For the Rights of Children and Adolescents estimated that 15,000 children lived on the street.
 
A 2006 study by Understanding Children’s Work, a child labor research program sponsored by the ILO, UNICEF, and the World Bank, found that approximately 130,000 children ages 10 to 14 were working in the country. Children most frequently worked in agriculture, retail trade, hotels, restaurants, manufacturing, and community and social services.
 
According to the NGO Citizen Action Against AIDS, persons diagnosed with HIV/AIDS frequently were discriminated against at the workplace and often were refused access to government health services.
 
While the law provides that all private and public sector workers (except members of the armed forces) have the right to form and join unions of their choice, the government continued to violate these rights. Public servants may go on strike only if the strike does not cause “irreparable damage to the population or to institutions.”
 
A Decade Under Chávez (Human Rights Watch)
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

John G.A. Williamson
Appointment: Mar 3, 1835
Presentation of Credentials: 30 Jun 1835
Termination of Mission: Died at post Aug 7, 1840

 
A.A. Hall
Appointment: Mar 15, 1841
Presentation of Credentials: On or shortly before Sep 22, 1841
Termination of Mission: Presented recall on or shortly before Nov 29, 1844
 
Vespasian Ellis
Appointment: Sep 30, 1844
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 29, 1844
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Aug 1, 1845
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate.
 
Benjamin G. Shields
Appointment: Mar 14, 1845
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 1, 1845
Termination of Mission: Transmitted recall by note, Jan 2, 1850
 
I. Nevitt Steele
Appointment: Dec 1, 1849
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 7, 1850
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 18, 1853
Note: Day of month not included on record copy of commission, which was issued during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jun 24, 1850.
 
Charles Eames
Appointment: Feb 9, 1854
Presentation of Credentials: May 23, 1854
Termination of Mission: Promoted to Minister Resident
Note: Nominated Feb 25, 1856 to be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it.
Charles Eames
Appointment: Jun 29, 1854
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 2, 1854
Termination of Mission: Transmitted recall by note, Sep 14, 1858
 
Edward A. Turpin
Appointment: Jun 15, 1858
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 21, 1858
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Nov 16, 1861
Note: Officially recognized as of Sep 21, 1858.
 
Henry T. Blow
Appointment: Jun 8, 1861
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned on Jul 5, 1861. Proceeded to post but did not present credentials; left Venezuela, Feb 22, 1862.
 
Erastus D. Culver
Appointment: Jul 12, 1862
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 7, 1862
Termination of Mission: Informed Government of Venezuela Jan 12, 1863 that his status would revert to that existing before presentation of credentials; presented new credentials on Oct 15, 1864, after change of government; left post on or soon after May 17, 1866
Note: Presentation of credentials by Culver disavowed by the US Government.
 
James Wilson
Appointment: May 31, 1866
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 10, 1866
Termination of Mission: Died at post Aug 8, 1867
 
Thomas N. Stilwell
Appointment: Aug 30, 1867
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 16, 1867
Termination of Mission: Relinquished charge, Jun 7, 1868
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate.
 
William A. Pile
Note: Not commissioned; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it.
 
James R. Partridge
Appointment: Apr 21, 1869
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 8, 1869
Termination of Mission: Left post May 9, 1870
 
William A. Pile
Appointment: May 23, 1871
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 9, 1871
Termination of Mission: Left post Jan 9, 1874
 
Thomas Russell
Appointment: Apr 20, 1874
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 4, 1874
Termination of Mission: Reported on Jan 29, 1877, that the Government of Venezuela refused to have further dealings with him
Note: Left Venezuela, Feb 17, 1877; returned to post Mar 17, 1878, to present letter of recall, but left post again, Mar 19, 1878, not having done so, because the Government of Venezuela refused to receive it.
 
Jehu Baker
Appointment: Mar 4, 1878
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 18, 1878
Termination of Mission: Relinquished charge, Sep 5, 1881
 
George W. Carter
Appointment: Jun 30, 1881
Presentation of Credentials: [see note below]
Termination of Mission: Superseded, May 16, 1882
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate. Was not issued a letter of credence, but entered into a “practical” relationship with the Government of Venezuela in Sep 1881, serving at Caracas until superseded.
 
Jehu Baker
Appointment: [see note below]
Presentation of Credentials: [May 16, 1882]
Termination of Mission: Recommissioned as Minister Resident/Consul General
Note: As Baker had not presented a letter of recall in 1881, he resumed his functions as Minister Resident without a new commission. Resumed duties on May 16, 1882, without reaccreditation.
Jehu Baker
Appointment: Jul 7, 1884
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Jun 20, 1885
Note: Received as Minister Resident only, the laws of Venezuela prohibiting recognition of dual diplomatic and consular capacities in the same individual. Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 8, 1884.
 
Charles L. Scott
Appointment: Apr 28, 1885
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 24, 1885
Termination of Mission: Promoted to Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 13, 1886.
Charles L. Scott
Appointment: Aug 10, 1888
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 18, 1888
Termination of Mission: Left Venezuela, Jan 18, 1889
 
William L. Scruggs
Appointment: Mar 30, 1889
Presentation of Credentials: May 30, 1889
Termination of Mission: Left post Dec 15, 1892
 
Frank C. Partridge
Appointment: Jan 25, 1893
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 4, 1893
Termination of Mission: Left post Jan 9, 1894
 
Seneca Haselton
Appointment: May 11, 1894
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 14, 1894
Termination of Mission: Left post May 1, 1895
 
Allen Thomas
Appointment: Jun 13, 1895
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 22, 1895
Termination of Mission: Left Venezuela, Jun 30, 1897
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 18, 1895.
 
Francis B. Loomis
Appointment: Jul 8, 1897
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 6, 1897
Termination of Mission: Recall requested by the Government of Venezuela, Mar 25, 1901
Note: Loomis left post Apr 8, 1901.
 
Herbert W. Bowen
Appointment: Jun 17, 1901
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 24, 1901
Termination of Mission: Left post May 1, 1905
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 10, 1901.
 
William W. Russell
Appointment: Jun 21, 1905
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 22, 1905
Termination of Mission: Left post Mar 8, 1908; presented new credentials on Mar 15, 1909, when diplomatic relations were re-established; left post Mar 24, 1910
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 11, 1905. Jacob Sleeper was serving as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim on Jun 20, 1908, on which date he notified the Government of Venezuela that the United States had severed diplomatic relations with Venezuela.
 
R. S. Reynolds Hitt
Appointment: Jun 24, 1910
Note: Took oath of office, but did not proceed to post.
 
John W. Garrett
Appointment: Dec 15, 1910
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 30, 1911
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 21, 1911
 
Elliott Northcott
Appointment: Dec 21, 1911
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 14, 1912
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 3, 1913
 
Preston McGoodwin
Appointment: Sep 18, 1913
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 22, 1913
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 5, 1921
 
Willis C. Cook
Appointment: Oct 8, 1921
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 1, 1922
Termination of Mission: Left post May 7, 1929
 
George R. Summerlin
Appointment: Sep 11, 1929
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 21, 1930
Termination of Mission: Left post Jan 15, 1935
 
Meredith Nicholson
Appointment: Jan 22, 1935
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 22, 1935
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 14, 1938
 
Antonio C. Gonzalez
Appointment: Mar 22, 1938
Presentation of Credentials: May 18, 1938
Termination of Mission: Left post Feb 8, 1939
 
Frank P. Corrigan
Appointment: Jan 20, 1939
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 14, 1939
Termination of Mission: Left Venezuela, Sep 5, 1947
 
Walter J. Donnelly
Appointment: Sep 20, 1947
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 1, 1947
Termination of Mission: Left post Sep 2, 1950
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 9, 1947.
 
Norman Armour
Appointment: Sep 20, 1950
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 7, 1950
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 2, 1951
 
Fletcher Warren
Appointment: Oct 3, 1951
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 21, 1951
Termination of Mission: Left post Mar 24, 1956
 
Dempster McIntosh
Appointment: Mar 28, 1956
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 26, 1956
Termination of Mission: Left Venezuela, Dec 27, 1957
 
Edward J. Sparks
Appointment: Feb 5, 1958
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 19, 1958
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 15, 1961
 
Teodoro Moscoso
Appointment: Apr 18, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: May 23, 1961
Termination of Mission: Left post Nov 21, 1961
 
C. Allen Stewart
Appointment: Feb 9, 1962
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 14, 1962
Termination of Mission: Left post Nov 28, 1964
 
Maurice M. Bernbaum
Appointment: Feb 4, 1965
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 4, 1965
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 9, 1969
 
John G. Hurd
Note: Not commissioned; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it.
 
Robert McClintock
Appointment: Jun 30, 1970
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 7, 1970
Termination of Mission: Left post Mar 14, 1975
 
Harry W. Shlaudeman
Appointment: Mar 17, 1975
Presentation of Credentials: May 9, 1975
Termination of Mission: Left post May 14, 1976
 
Viron P. Vaky
Appointment: Jun 16, 1976
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 26, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 24, 1978
 
William H. Luers
Appointment: Sep 15, 1978
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 9, 1978
Termination of Mission: Jun 28, 1982
 
George W. Landau
Appointment: Jul 22, 1982
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 25, 1982
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 4, 1985
 
Otto J. Reich
Appointment: Apr 16, 1986
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 6, 1986
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 17, 1989
 
Note: The following officers served as Chargés d’Affaires ad interim: Kenneth N. Skoug, Jr. (Jul 1989-Sep 1990) and Robert C. Felder (Sep-Nov 1990).
 
Eric M. Javits
Note: Nomination of Jul 11, 1989, withdrawn on Jun 26, 1990.
 
Michael Martin Skol
Appointment: Oct 22, 1990
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 19, 1990
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 23, 1993
 
Jeffrey Davidow
Appointment: Aug 2, 1993
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 1, 1993
Termination of Mission: Left post May 16, 1996
 
John Francis Maisto
Appointment: Feb 10, 1997
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 21, 1997
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 7, 2000
Note: An earlier nomination of Apr 29, 1996, was not acted upon by the Senate.
 
Donna Jean Hrinak
Appointment: Jul 11, 2000
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 25, 2000
Termination of Mission: Left post Jan 23, 2002
 
Charles S. Shapiro
Appointment: Jan 30, 2002
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 19, 2002
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 21, 2004
 
William R. Brownfield
Appointment: Jul 2, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 15, 2004
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 5, 2007
 
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Venezuela's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Álvarez Herrera, Bernardo

Bernardo Álvarez Herrera has served as Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States since February 26, 2003. Álvarez holds a degree in Political Science from Universidad Central de Venezuela (1975-1980), and an MA in Development Studies from the University of Sussex, England (1980-1982).

 
From 1977-1980, he was a research assistant and an assistant professor at Universidad Central de Venezuela. He has also been a professor at Universidad Central de Venezuela from 1982 until the present.
 
From 1983-1985, Álvarez was an academic advisor at the Institute of High Studies on National Defense before becoming executive secretary of the working group on political reforms of the Presidential Commission for the Reform of the State from 1985-1986.
 
From 1986-1987, he was chief of the Research and Development Division at the Venezuelan Institute of Foreign Trade. From 1988-1991, he was executive secretary and Venezuelan representative in the Forum on Debt and Development (FONDAD).
 
Álvarez moved to the Council of the Faculty of Law and Political Science, Universidad Central de Venezuela, becoming its representative from 1989-1993. From 1990-1992, he was again an academic advisor at the Institute of High Studies on National Defense, as well as a professor at the Superior School of the Venezuelan Air Force. Herrera also served as Director of Cooperation at Universidad Central de Venezuela from 1993-1994.
 
From 1999-2000, he was Director-General of Hydrocarbons for the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and was promoted to vice minister (2000-2003). Also during this time, he served as Venezuelan Representative to the Energy Council of the United States, a position that continues to this day.
           
From 2000-2001, Álvarez washead of the Venezuelan Delegation to the Conferences of Ministers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and from 2000-2002, he was Venezuelan Coordinator for the Cooperation Agreement between the Venezuelan Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Department of Energy of the United States. He also served as Venezuelan Coordinator of the Venezuelan, French Energy Task Force (Venezuelan Ministry of Energy and Mines, and French Ministry of Industry) from 2000-2002.
 
Álvarez speaks Spanish, English and French.
 

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Venezuela's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela

Caulfield, John
ambassador-image

John Caulfield took over the leadership of the US Embassy in Caracas as Chargé d’Affaires following the expulsion of US Ambassador Patrick Duddy in September 2008. Originally from New Jersey, Caulfield graduated from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia with a degree in international relations and Latin American studies.

 
Earlier in his career he held assignments as country officer for Argentina and later Brazil, and served overseas in Colombia, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Brazil.
 
Caulfield has held a series of positions dealing with Latin America or consular affairs. He served as American consul general at Manila, Philippines, and consul at Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He has also directed the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
 
From 2002 to 2005 he was Deputy Chief of Mission at American Embassy Lima, Peru, before serving as consul general at the American Embassy in London.
 

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Overview

Authoritarian rule characterized Venezuela’s political climate throughout much of the 20th century, when two dictators brought repression from 1908-1935 and from 1950-1958. After World War I, Venezuela’s economy shifted from one of agriculture to one of oil production and export, and this brought an increased standard of living to the country. But the period of stability that began in 1958 ended in 1989, when rioting in Caracas killed more than 200 people. Hugo Chávez led an unsuccessful coup to overthrow the president in 1992, and eventually took over the leadership of Venezuela, when he was elected president in 1998, ushering in a new age in Venezuelan politics.

 
His broad reforms and a crackdown on corruption have made Chávez a populist hero. He was re-elected in 2000 and 2006, though in April 2002, Chávez was taken into custody during a brief coup attempt by business leader Pedro Carmona, who swore himself in as interim president. Days later, loyalist troops returned Chávez to power. Chávez has sworn to bring “21st century socialism” to the country, and has taken several steps to nationalize major industrial sectors, such as electricity, telecommunications and oil. Although a referendum in December 2007 limited what many saw as an attempt by Chávez to consolidate his powers, he continues to make strong and sometimes unsubstantiated claims against foreign governments, including the United States.
 
With the decline of Fidel Castro in Cuba, Chávez has become Public Enemy No. 1 for the United States when it comes to Latin America. The bombastic leftist leader has challenged Washington, DC, especially during the administration of George W. Bush, like no other leader in the Western Hemisphere. Recent controversies have included the breach of Venezuelan airspace by a US anti-drug plane; the presence of Russian bombers in Venezuela to conduct training missions; Venezuela’s expelling of the US Ambassador amid accusations of fomenting a coup against Chávez; Venezuela’s making the US State Department’s report on terrorism; Chávez’s firing of the Venezuelan counsel in Houston after it did not receive proper US authorization; the expelling from Venezuela of a US evangelical group; and American religious broadcaster Pat Robertson’s calling for the assassination of Hugo Chávez to keep his country from becoming “a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.”
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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Venezuela is situated on the north coast of South America and can be divided into four distinct geographical areas: the Andes in the northwest, the long Atlantic and Caribbean coastlines, the central plains, or llanos, and the dense, forbidding jungle in the southeast that makes up nearly half the country.

 
Population: 26.4 million
 
Religions: Catholic 91.9%, Protestant 2.6%, Spiritist 1.1%, Ethnoreligious 0.7%, Baha’i 0.6%, Muslim 0.3%, Jewish 0.2%, Buddhist 0.1%, non-religious 2.5%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, Amerindian.
 
Languages: Spanish (official) 85.9%, Wayuu 0.7%, Warao 0.07%, Piaroa 0.05%, Maquiritari 0.02%. There are 40 living languages in Venezuela.
 
 
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History
Venezuela was settled by indigenous people who used agriculture and hunting to sustain their communities along the coast, the Andean Mountain range, and the Orinoco River. The first Spaniards came to the region in 1522, and set up a permanent settlement at Nuevo Toledo.
 
Although the Spanish colonized Venezuela at that time, it was a relatively neglected colony throughout the 1500s and 1600s. Instead, Spain spent these years concentrating its efforts in extracting gold and silver from other colonies. By the end of the 18th century, Venezuelans began to grow tired of Spanish colonial rule, and in 1821, after several unsuccessful uprisings, Venezuela gained independence from Spain. Simón Bolívar, hero of the revolution, became the nation’s first leader.
 
One of Bolívar’s first orders of business was to join with Colombia, Panama and Ecuador to form the Republic of Gran Colombia. This lasted until 1830, when Venezuela became a sovereign nation with its own political system.
 
Much of the country’s history during the 19th century was characterized by instability, turbulence and dictatorial control. The 20th century wasn’t much better, as dictators controlled the country from 1908-1935 and from 1950-1958. After World War I, Venezuela’s economy shifted from one of agricultural production to one of petroleum production and export.
 
General Marcos Peréz Jiménez, the second of Venezuela’s 20th century dictators, was overthrown in 1958, and the military withdrew from national politics. Since that time, Venezuela has had a system of civilian democratic rule that has earned it a reputation as one of the most stable Latin American countries.
 
However, this period of relative stability came to an end in 1989, when rioting in Caracas killed more than 200 people. An economic austerity program, launched by then-President Carlos Andres Peréz, was unpopular among Venezuelans, and in 1992, a group of army lieutenant colonels led by Hugo Chávez launched an unsuccessful coup attempt. They claimed that the events of 1989 proved that the political system was no longer serving the needs of the people. In November of that year, another coup attempt followed, and a year later, Congress impeached Peréz on corruption charges.
 
In December 1998, Chávez won the presidency on a campaign for broad reform, constitutional change, and a crackdown on corruption. These policies found widespread acceptance, especially among the country’s poorest people. The National Constituent Assembly (ANC), consisting of 131 elected individuals, almost of all whom were loyal to Chávez, convened in August 1999 to begin rewriting the constitution. Venezuelans approved the ANC’s draft in a national referendum on December 15, 1999.
 
In July 2000, following a long and controversial process, voters re-elected Chávez as president. But two years later, an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 people marched in downtown Caracas to demand his resignation. Gunfire broke out, resulting in as many as 18 deaths and more than 100 injuries on both sides.
 
Military officers took Chávez into custody, and business leader Pedro Carmona swore himself in as interim President. On April 14, military troops loyal to Chávez returned him to power. A national reconciliation process, with participation by the Organization of American States, the UN Development Program, and the Carter Center, was unsuccessful in stopping further conflict.
 
On December 2, 2002, opposition leaders called for a national work stoppage. Strikers protested the government and called for the resignation of Chávez. The oil sector joined other sectors of the economy and effectively shut down all economic activity for a month. On December 16, 2002, the OAS Permanent Council passed Resolution 833, which called for a “constitutional, democratic, peaceful, and electoral solution” to the crisis in Venezuela. The strike finally ended in February 2003.
 
In September 2003, the Supreme Court named a new board of directors for the National Electoral Council (CNE). After months of intense deliberations, the CNE certified the opposition’s results and set the date of the recall referendum for August 15, 2004. According to the CNE, Chávez won 59% of the vote. His opponents immediately contested that the results were marked by electoral fraud. However, international electoral observation missions carried out by the Organization of American States and the Carter Center found no indication of voting irregularities.
 
Pro-Chávez candidates swept other electoral contests, including state governor positions and the majority of the seats in the August 2005 municipal council elections. Pro-Chávez candidates also won all 167 seats in the December 2005 National Assembly elections, after most opposition candidates withdrew one week before the elections over voter secrecy concerns. The final reports of the EU and OAS observer missions to the 2005 legislative elections, which were marked by record-high abstentions, noted high levels of distrust in electoral institutions.
 
Chávez was re-elected again in the December 3, 2006 presidential elections. Though international observers found no evidence of fraud during the elections, they did note concerns over abuse of government resources used to support the Chávez campaign, voter intimidation tactics, and manipulation of the electoral registry.
 
In January 2007, Chávez named a new vice president to the cabinet, and announced his efforts to implement “21st century socialism” for the country. He also asked the National Assembly to grant him special constitutional powers for 18 months, via an “enabling law” to rule by decree over a broad range of society. He subsequently received these powers.
 
Chávez has taken steps to nationalize the telecommunications and electricity sectors, and finalize a majority government share in many oil projects. All of these sectors enjoy heavy foreign investment. On August 15, 2007, he proposed a package of reforms to his own 1999 Constitution. These reforms,included measures that would have allowed indefinite presidential re-election, a reorganization of the geographic boundaries of government, and a redefinition of private property. On December 2, 2007, the proposed reforms were narrowly defeated in a public referendum after student groups, traditional opposition leaders, and former Chávez allies urged Venezuelans to reject the package. Many viewed this defeat as a rebuke to his efforts to consolidate power in office.
 
Gubernatorial and mayoral elections were held in November 2008. These state and local elections were deemed largely free and fair, although electoral nongovernmental organizations noted some irregularities, such as prohibited election day campaigning and extended polling hours in pro-government neighborhoods.
 
A Country Study: Venezuela (Library of Congress)

 

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Venezuela's Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with Venezuela

The United States established diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 1835, four years after Venezuela became independent from Spain, when John G. A. Williamson presented his credentials in Caracas.

 
The strategic relationship between Venezuela and the United States changed as rapidly as did Venezuela during the latter half of the 20th century. Before World War II, Venezuela was a relatively typical Latin American state, ruled by a succession of dictators and dependent on the cycles of an agriculturally-based economy. However, as its growing oil wealth changed and modernized Venezuelan society, Venezuela became a more important strategic consideration for the United States. As Venezuela began to develop its own limited sphere of influence, the US began to consider it as a potential strategic partner in the Caribbean area.
 
The basic strategic assumptions of the two countries, although not identical, were close enough to make possible a supportive and cooperative relationship during the 1960s. As an emerging democracy, Venezuela opposed authoritarian governments of both the right and the left. In the early 1960s, Venezuela came to share the US conviction that the Castro regime in Cuba presented the most compelling threat to the stability of Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuban backing of Venezuelan insurgents confirmed this belief. Counterinsurgency training provided by the US contributed to the successful quelling of the insurgency by the late 1960s.
 
During the 1970s, Venezuela and the US followed more divergent paths with regard to security matters. The global strategy of containing communism drew the United States into a debacle in Vietnam. As the prestige and perceived influence of the US waned, Venezuela moved to pursue policies of independent outreach to the Third World.
 
By the 1980s, Venezuela had grown even further away from the US. Nevertheless, the two countries continued to share certain basic strategic interests, including the safety and free passage of shipping through Caribbean sea-lanes, concern for the Caribbean region as a market for exports, and opposing the expansion of Cuban presence and influence.
 
Some of these shared interests came to the forefront in the debate that preceded the United States sale of F-16 jet fighters to the Venezuelan air force in 1983. Despite some concern expressed by such other regional powers as Colombia, the administration of President Ronald Reagan pushed for the sale on the grounds that Venezuela needed advanced aircraft to help protect the Caribbean sea-lanes, secure its oil resources against external attack, and help secure the approaches to the Panama Canal.
 
In 1996, Venezuela opened its petroleum sector to foreign investment, creating extensive trade and investment opportunities for US companies. As a result, Venezuela became one of the top four suppliers of foreign oil to the United States.
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Current U.S. Relations with Venezuela

Relations between the US and Venezuela are currently tense. Since he came to office, President Chávez has defined himself in opposition to the policies of the United States, and his rhetoric has been incendiary at times, particularly with regards to former President George W. Bush and the members of his cabinet. In a September 2006 speech before the UN General Assembly, Chávez called Bush “the Devil,” and other offensive names. On September 11, 2008, Chávez ordered the expulsion of the US Ambassador, in solidarity with the Bolivian government’s decision to expel the US Ambassador in La Paz. In retaliation, the US expelled the Venezuelan Ambassador to Washington.

 
In 2004 and early 2005, counter-narcotics cooperation between the US and Venezuela deteriorated significantly. Although opium poppy and coca cultivation, money laundering, and judicial corruption are major concerns, the Venezuelan National Guard removed its highly experienced members from the US-supported Prosecutor’s Drug Task Force. In March 2005, the government of Venezuela accused the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of espionage and terminated its cooperation pending negotiation of a new cooperation agreement. President Bush decertified Venezuela on counter-narcotics cooperation in 2005, 2006, and 2007.
 
Despite political troubles, the US and Venezuela enjoy deep commercial ties. About 500 US companies are represented in the country.The US is Venezuela’s most important trading partner, representing about 22% of imports and approximately 60% of Venezuelan exports. In turn, Venezuela is the United States’ third-largest export market in Latin America, purchasing American machinery, transportation equipment, agricultural commodities, and auto parts.
 
In the 2000 US Census, 91,507 people identified themselves as being of Venezuelan ancestry. Venezuelan communities have sprung up in New York, California, Texas, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland.
 
Approximately 23,000 US citizens living in Venezuela have registered with the US embassy, an estimated three-quarters of them residing in the Caracas area. An estimated 12,000 US tourists visit Venezuela annually.
 
In 2006, 88,825 Americans visited Venezuela. The number of Americans visiting Venezuela has fluctuated somewhat randomly since 2002 between a low of 66,711 (2003) and 89,701 (2005).
 
In 2006, 369,037 Venezuelans visited the US. After a large drop off in 2002, when 284,423 Venezuelans came to the US, the number of tourists has been increasing steadily.
 
In June 2008, Venezuela was listed at Tier 2 Watchlist status in the State Department’s Report on Trafficking In Persons. Tier 2 Watchlist status indicates that a country does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. It is, however, making significant efforts to do so, according to the State Department.
 
What soured the US-Venezuela alliance? (by Angelo Rivero Santos and Andrés Martinez, Los Angeles Times)
US-Venezuelan Relations (by Mary Crane, Council on Foreign Relations)
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Where Does the Money Flow

There is little doubt about what constitutes the most critical aspect of trade between the US and Venezuela. In 2008, the US imported $51 billion from the South American country—and $40 billion of that was crude oil. Oil imports have steadily risen this decade, from $17 billion in 2004, despite animosities between Caracas and Washington.

 
Other top imports from Venezuela included liquefied petroleum gases, moving up from $2.3 billion to $3.8 billion; iron and steel mill products, rising from $269.5 million to $544.7 million; and bauxite and aluminum, increasing from $193.1 million to $524.4 million.
 
American exports to Venezuela tally substantially less in total value, only $12.6 billion in 2008. No single export stands out like petroleum does for imports. Leading exports included wheat, increasing from $227.8 million to $396 million; corn, rising from $91.3 million to $314.6 million; plastic materials, moving up from $184.7 million to $238.7 million; and chemicals (organic), increasing from $677.6 million to $923.6 million.
 
US exports on the decline included petroleum products, decreasing from $645.1 million to $620.8 million; industrial engines, moving down from $524.1 million to $508.3 million; computer accessories, falling from $579.1 million to $562.2 million; and passenger cars, decreasing from $422.6 million to $194.9 million.
 
In 2007 the US gave Venezuela $2.6 million in aid. The budget allotted the most funds to Civil Society ($1.6 million), and the Andean Counterdrug Program ($1 million).
 
The 2008 budget estimate increased aid to $4.5 million, of which $4.49 million went to Civil Society.
 
The 2009 budget request will further increase aid to $5 million, which will be wholly dedicated to Civil Society. In the description of the distribution of “Governing Justly and Democratically” funds, the 2009 budget says, “USAID programs will help identify and support emerging democratic leaders.”
 
Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela reject US trade (by Anita Snow, Associated Press)
Castro, Chávez Malign US Trade Policies (by Bill Cormier, Washington Post)
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Controversies

Chávez Fires Houston Counsel in US

In November 2008, President Hugo Chávez fired the Venezuelan consul in Houston for violating rules on opening new offices. This office is important because Houston is the hub for much of the country’s oil business in the US. The United States government said it invited Venezuelan personnel to leave the country after a new base for the Houston consulate was set up without receiving appropriate US authorization. Chávez subsequently removed the counsel, and made overtures to incoming President Barack Obama to ease tensions.
 
Russian Bombers in Venezuela to Conduct Training Missions
In September 2008, two Russian bombers landed at a Venezuelan airfield to carry out training missions. The US announced plans to monitor the training missions, since they came at a time when relations between the United States and Russia had deteriorated in the wake of Russia’s invasion of the former Soviet republic of Georgia in August. Russia denied that the missions had anything to do with tense relations, and reiterated its position against a missile defense system the US was planning in Poland and the Czech Republic.
 
Venezuela Expels American Ambassador
In September 2008, President Hugo expelled the US ambassador and recalled his own ambassador from Washington. The move was in solidarity with Bolivia’s Evo Morales, who expelled the American ambassador for allegedly fomenting a coup d’etat by rich eastern landowners against him. Chávez also accused the US ambassador in Venezuela of backing a coup plot against him in 2002.
 
US Anti-Drug Plane Flies into Venezuelan Airspace
In May 2008, a US anti-drug aircraft flew into Venezuelan airspace, elevating tensions between the two nations. Though the pilot recognized his error and radioed the Venezuelan tower, Venezuela’s Defense Minister Gustavo Rangel Briceno said the country believed that the US intentionally violated its airspace, as a test. The pilot said it was a navigation error, and the US Embassy called it an isolated incident.
 
US Terror List Names Venezuela
In April 2008, the US State Department released its report on terrorism, naming Venezuela’s associations with terror states, Iran’s meddling in Iraq, and the resurgence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan as the top concerns of the US. President Hugo Chávez’s “sympathy” for Colombian rebels, as well as his lack of cooperation with US anti-terror efforts in the region have “deepened Venezuelan relationships with state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Cuba,” according to the report. The State Department stated that Venezuelan citizenship, identity and travel documents are easy for terrorists to obtain. Venezuelan officials called the report ridiculous and cited recent moves to biometric passports as one way they have tried to repair the problem.
 
Chávez Expels US Evangelical Group
In October 2005, President Hugo Chávez expelled a US evangelical group called New Tribes Mission, saying it was gathering politically sensitive and strategic information, as well as exploiting local Indians. The group had been operating among indigenous communities along the border with Colombia and Brazil since 1946, but Chávez believed that the group acted as a cover for the prospecting of geological and mineral wealth coveted by corporations.
Venezuela to Expel US Evangelical Group (by Humberto Márquez, IPS News)
 
Pat Robertson Calls for Hugo Chávez’s Assassination
In August 2005, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate President Hugo Chávez to stop his country from becoming “a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.” Robertson said, “You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.” Robertson previously made other controversial statements, such as suggesting that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device, and that feminism encourages women to “kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
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Human Rights

The State Department’s 2008 human rights report for Venezuela found that security forces had committed unlawful killings, including summary executions of criminal suspects. Prosecutors rarely brought cases against perpetrators of unlawful killings. Sentences frequently were light, and convictions often were overturned on appeal. Members of the security forces charged with or convicted of crimes rarely were imprisoned. Human rights groups claimed that police officers and military officials sometimes disposed of their victims’ bodies to avoid investigations. There also were credible reports that security forces continued to torture and abuse detainees.

 
Prison conditions were harsh due to scarce resources, poorly trained and corrupt prison staff, and violence by guards and inmates. Severe overcrowding in some prisons and food and water shortages remained problems. The government failed to provide adequate prison security. Violence among prison gangs, including shootouts and riots, was common. Prisoners also died as a consequence of poor diet and inadequate medical care. The media reported that in the Rodeo I penitentiary, 50 inmates had contracted hepatitis due to unsanitary prison conditions.
 
Inmates often had to pay guards and other inmates to obtain necessities such as space in a cell, a bed, and food. Many inmates also profited from exploiting and abusing others, particularly since convicted violent felons often were held with pretrial detainees or first-time petty offenders. Trafficking in arms and drugs fueled gang-related violence and extortion. Prison officials often illegally demanded payment from prisoners for transportation to judicial proceedings. Security forces and law enforcement authorities often imprisoned minors together with adults, even though separate facilities existed for juveniles.
Corruption was a major problem among all police forces, whose members were poorly paid and trained. Impunity for corruption, brutality, and other acts of violence were major problems.
 
A warrant is required for an arrest or detention, but persons were sometimes apprehended openly without warrants from judicial authorities.
 
Although there is a functioning system of bail, it is not available for certain crimes. Bail also may be denied if a person is apprehended in the act of committing a crime or if a judge determines that there is a danger that the accused may flee or impede the investigation.
 
Judicial independence remained compromised. The judiciary was also highly inefficient, sometimes corrupt, and subject to political influence, particularly from the Attorney General’s Office, which in turn was pressured by the executive branch.
 
The Supreme Court’s Judicial Committee may hire and fire temporary judges without cause and without explanation, as it often did. Provisional judges legally have the same rights and authorities as permanent judges. The provisional and temporary judges, lacking tenure in their profession, were particularly subject to political influence from the Ministry of Interior and Justice and the Attorney General.
 
Security forces were known to infringe on citizens’ privacy rights by searching homes without warrants, particularly targeting the homes of opposition leaders.
 
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press. However, the combination of laws governing libel and broadcast media content, legal harassment, and physical intimidation of both individuals and the media, resulted in practical limitations on these freedoms and a climate of self-censorship. The government employed a variety of mechanisms—legal, economic, regulatory, judicial, physical, and rhetorical—to harass the private media and engender an environment of intolerance towards any critical press.
 
Government officials, including Chávez in some instances, used government-controlled media outlets to air unsubstantiated accusations against private media owners, including Alberto Federico Ravell, director of all-news cable television network Globovision; Miguel Henrique Otero, director of El Nacional newspaper; and Andres Mata, director of El Universal. The accusations alleged that these media owners were fomenting destabilization campaigns and coup attempts against the government.
 
The law requires that practicing journalists have journalism degrees and be members of the National College of Journalists, and it prescribes three-to six-month jail terms for those who practice journalism illegally.
 
Government supporters sometimes disrupted marches and rallies.
 
While the constitution provides for freedom of association and freedom from political discrimination, the government only partially respected this right. Although indicating that they generally operated without interference, professional and academic associations complained that the National Electoral Council (CNE) repeatedly interfered with their attempts to hold internal elections.
 
A September report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that the Chávez administration systematically engaged in political discrimination. According to HRW, “Government officials have removed scores of detractors from the career civil service, purged dissident employees from the national oil company, denied citizens access to social programs based on their political opinions, and denounced critics as subversives deserving of discriminatory treatment.”
 
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, on the condition that its practice does not violate public morality, decency, or the public order, and the government generally respected this right in practice. However, President Chávez engaged in numerous rhetorical personal attacks on specific Catholic bishops and the Papal Nuncio. He warned Catholic bishops to refrain from commenting on political issues.
 
Despite President Chávez’s overture to Jewish leaders, government institutions and officials, as well as government-affiliated media outlets promoted anti-Semitism through numerous anti-Semitic comments. These actions created a spillover effect into mainstream society, which witnessed a rise in anti-Semitic vandalism, caricatures, and expressions at rallies and in newspapers. Incidents of spraying of graffiti, intimidation, vandalism, and other physical attacks against Jewish institutions were frequent.
 
There were numerous reports that persons were denied passports and other official documents by government agencies for having signed the petition for the 2004 recall referendum.
 
The World Bank’s worldwide governance indicators reflected that government corruption was a problem. There was a perception of widespread corruption at all levels of the government. Journalists reported several cases of apparent corruption implicating high-level government officials, but none were investigated.
 
Many NGOs reported threats, physical attacks, and harassment, especially after  Chávez threatened to criminalize the receipt of foreign funding. Human rights organizations expressed concern that President Chávez’s proposed constitutional amendment to regulate international support for organizations with “political goals” would be used to deny NGOs foreign funding opportunities and limit nongovernmental activities in the country.
 
The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, but it remained a problem. A man guilty of raping a woman may avoid punishment if he marries the victim before sentencing.
 
Violence against women continued to be a problem, and women faced substantial institutional and societal prejudice with respect to rape and domestic violence. According to the Pan American Health Organization, 70% of women killed in the country were killed by their husbands, boyfriends, or ex-partners.
 
Sexual harassment was common in the workplace but rarely reported.
 
Reports of child abuse were rare due to a fear of entanglement with the authorities and ingrained societal attitudes regarding family privacy. According to UNICEF and NGOs working with children and women, child abuse, including incest, often occurred at home.
 
The human rights NGO For the Rights of Children and Adolescents estimated that 15,000 children lived on the street.
 
A 2006 study by Understanding Children’s Work, a child labor research program sponsored by the ILO, UNICEF, and the World Bank, found that approximately 130,000 children ages 10 to 14 were working in the country. Children most frequently worked in agriculture, retail trade, hotels, restaurants, manufacturing, and community and social services.
 
According to the NGO Citizen Action Against AIDS, persons diagnosed with HIV/AIDS frequently were discriminated against at the workplace and often were refused access to government health services.
 
While the law provides that all private and public sector workers (except members of the armed forces) have the right to form and join unions of their choice, the government continued to violate these rights. Public servants may go on strike only if the strike does not cause “irreparable damage to the population or to institutions.”
 
A Decade Under Chávez (Human Rights Watch)
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

John G.A. Williamson
Appointment: Mar 3, 1835
Presentation of Credentials: 30 Jun 1835
Termination of Mission: Died at post Aug 7, 1840

 
A.A. Hall
Appointment: Mar 15, 1841
Presentation of Credentials: On or shortly before Sep 22, 1841
Termination of Mission: Presented recall on or shortly before Nov 29, 1844
 
Vespasian Ellis
Appointment: Sep 30, 1844
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 29, 1844
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Aug 1, 1845
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate.
 
Benjamin G. Shields
Appointment: Mar 14, 1845
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 1, 1845
Termination of Mission: Transmitted recall by note, Jan 2, 1850
 
I. Nevitt Steele
Appointment: Dec 1, 1849
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 7, 1850
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 18, 1853
Note: Day of month not included on record copy of commission, which was issued during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jun 24, 1850.
 
Charles Eames
Appointment: Feb 9, 1854
Presentation of Credentials: May 23, 1854
Termination of Mission: Promoted to Minister Resident
Note: Nominated Feb 25, 1856 to be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it.
Charles Eames
Appointment: Jun 29, 1854
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 2, 1854
Termination of Mission: Transmitted recall by note, Sep 14, 1858
 
Edward A. Turpin
Appointment: Jun 15, 1858
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 21, 1858
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Nov 16, 1861
Note: Officially recognized as of Sep 21, 1858.
 
Henry T. Blow
Appointment: Jun 8, 1861
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned on Jul 5, 1861. Proceeded to post but did not present credentials; left Venezuela, Feb 22, 1862.
 
Erastus D. Culver
Appointment: Jul 12, 1862
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 7, 1862
Termination of Mission: Informed Government of Venezuela Jan 12, 1863 that his status would revert to that existing before presentation of credentials; presented new credentials on Oct 15, 1864, after change of government; left post on or soon after May 17, 1866
Note: Presentation of credentials by Culver disavowed by the US Government.
 
James Wilson
Appointment: May 31, 1866
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 10, 1866
Termination of Mission: Died at post Aug 8, 1867
 
Thomas N. Stilwell
Appointment: Aug 30, 1867
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 16, 1867
Termination of Mission: Relinquished charge, Jun 7, 1868
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate.
 
William A. Pile
Note: Not commissioned; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it.
 
James R. Partridge
Appointment: Apr 21, 1869
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 8, 1869
Termination of Mission: Left post May 9, 1870
 
William A. Pile
Appointment: May 23, 1871
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 9, 1871
Termination of Mission: Left post Jan 9, 1874
 
Thomas Russell
Appointment: Apr 20, 1874
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 4, 1874
Termination of Mission: Reported on Jan 29, 1877, that the Government of Venezuela refused to have further dealings with him
Note: Left Venezuela, Feb 17, 1877; returned to post Mar 17, 1878, to present letter of recall, but left post again, Mar 19, 1878, not having done so, because the Government of Venezuela refused to receive it.
 
Jehu Baker
Appointment: Mar 4, 1878
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 18, 1878
Termination of Mission: Relinquished charge, Sep 5, 1881
 
George W. Carter
Appointment: Jun 30, 1881
Presentation of Credentials: [see note below]
Termination of Mission: Superseded, May 16, 1882
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate. Was not issued a letter of credence, but entered into a “practical” relationship with the Government of Venezuela in Sep 1881, serving at Caracas until superseded.
 
Jehu Baker
Appointment: [see note below]
Presentation of Credentials: [May 16, 1882]
Termination of Mission: Recommissioned as Minister Resident/Consul General
Note: As Baker had not presented a letter of recall in 1881, he resumed his functions as Minister Resident without a new commission. Resumed duties on May 16, 1882, without reaccreditation.
Jehu Baker
Appointment: Jul 7, 1884
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Jun 20, 1885
Note: Received as Minister Resident only, the laws of Venezuela prohibiting recognition of dual diplomatic and consular capacities in the same individual. Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 8, 1884.
 
Charles L. Scott
Appointment: Apr 28, 1885
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 24, 1885
Termination of Mission: Promoted to Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 13, 1886.
Charles L. Scott
Appointment: Aug 10, 1888
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 18, 1888
Termination of Mission: Left Venezuela, Jan 18, 1889
 
William L. Scruggs
Appointment: Mar 30, 1889
Presentation of Credentials: May 30, 1889
Termination of Mission: Left post Dec 15, 1892
 
Frank C. Partridge
Appointment: Jan 25, 1893
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 4, 1893
Termination of Mission: Left post Jan 9, 1894
 
Seneca Haselton
Appointment: May 11, 1894
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 14, 1894
Termination of Mission: Left post May 1, 1895
 
Allen Thomas
Appointment: Jun 13, 1895
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 22, 1895
Termination of Mission: Left Venezuela, Jun 30, 1897
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 18, 1895.
 
Francis B. Loomis
Appointment: Jul 8, 1897
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 6, 1897
Termination of Mission: Recall requested by the Government of Venezuela, Mar 25, 1901
Note: Loomis left post Apr 8, 1901.
 
Herbert W. Bowen
Appointment: Jun 17, 1901
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 24, 1901
Termination of Mission: Left post May 1, 1905
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 10, 1901.
 
William W. Russell
Appointment: Jun 21, 1905
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 22, 1905
Termination of Mission: Left post Mar 8, 1908; presented new credentials on Mar 15, 1909, when diplomatic relations were re-established; left post Mar 24, 1910
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 11, 1905. Jacob Sleeper was serving as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim on Jun 20, 1908, on which date he notified the Government of Venezuela that the United States had severed diplomatic relations with Venezuela.
 
R. S. Reynolds Hitt
Appointment: Jun 24, 1910
Note: Took oath of office, but did not proceed to post.
 
John W. Garrett
Appointment: Dec 15, 1910
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 30, 1911
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 21, 1911
 
Elliott Northcott
Appointment: Dec 21, 1911
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 14, 1912
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 3, 1913
 
Preston McGoodwin
Appointment: Sep 18, 1913
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 22, 1913
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 5, 1921
 
Willis C. Cook
Appointment: Oct 8, 1921
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 1, 1922
Termination of Mission: Left post May 7, 1929
 
George R. Summerlin
Appointment: Sep 11, 1929
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 21, 1930
Termination of Mission: Left post Jan 15, 1935
 
Meredith Nicholson
Appointment: Jan 22, 1935
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 22, 1935
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 14, 1938
 
Antonio C. Gonzalez
Appointment: Mar 22, 1938
Presentation of Credentials: May 18, 1938
Termination of Mission: Left post Feb 8, 1939
 
Frank P. Corrigan
Appointment: Jan 20, 1939
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 14, 1939
Termination of Mission: Left Venezuela, Sep 5, 1947
 
Walter J. Donnelly
Appointment: Sep 20, 1947
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 1, 1947
Termination of Mission: Left post Sep 2, 1950
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 9, 1947.
 
Norman Armour
Appointment: Sep 20, 1950
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 7, 1950
Termination of Mission: Left post Oct 2, 1951
 
Fletcher Warren
Appointment: Oct 3, 1951
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 21, 1951
Termination of Mission: Left post Mar 24, 1956
 
Dempster McIntosh
Appointment: Mar 28, 1956
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 26, 1956
Termination of Mission: Left Venezuela, Dec 27, 1957
 
Edward J. Sparks
Appointment: Feb 5, 1958
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 19, 1958
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 15, 1961
 
Teodoro Moscoso
Appointment: Apr 18, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: May 23, 1961
Termination of Mission: Left post Nov 21, 1961
 
C. Allen Stewart
Appointment: Feb 9, 1962
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 14, 1962
Termination of Mission: Left post Nov 28, 1964
 
Maurice M. Bernbaum
Appointment: Feb 4, 1965
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 4, 1965
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 9, 1969
 
John G. Hurd
Note: Not commissioned; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it.
 
Robert McClintock
Appointment: Jun 30, 1970
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 7, 1970
Termination of Mission: Left post Mar 14, 1975
 
Harry W. Shlaudeman
Appointment: Mar 17, 1975
Presentation of Credentials: May 9, 1975
Termination of Mission: Left post May 14, 1976
 
Viron P. Vaky
Appointment: Jun 16, 1976
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 26, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 24, 1978
 
William H. Luers
Appointment: Sep 15, 1978
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 9, 1978
Termination of Mission: Jun 28, 1982
 
George W. Landau
Appointment: Jul 22, 1982
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 25, 1982
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 4, 1985
 
Otto J. Reich
Appointment: Apr 16, 1986
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 6, 1986
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 17, 1989
 
Note: The following officers served as Chargés d’Affaires ad interim: Kenneth N. Skoug, Jr. (Jul 1989-Sep 1990) and Robert C. Felder (Sep-Nov 1990).
 
Eric M. Javits
Note: Nomination of Jul 11, 1989, withdrawn on Jun 26, 1990.
 
Michael Martin Skol
Appointment: Oct 22, 1990
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 19, 1990
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 23, 1993
 
Jeffrey Davidow
Appointment: Aug 2, 1993
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 1, 1993
Termination of Mission: Left post May 16, 1996
 
John Francis Maisto
Appointment: Feb 10, 1997
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 21, 1997
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 7, 2000
Note: An earlier nomination of Apr 29, 1996, was not acted upon by the Senate.
 
Donna Jean Hrinak
Appointment: Jul 11, 2000
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 25, 2000
Termination of Mission: Left post Jan 23, 2002
 
Charles S. Shapiro
Appointment: Jan 30, 2002
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 19, 2002
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 21, 2004
 
William R. Brownfield
Appointment: Jul 2, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 15, 2004
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 5, 2007
 
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Venezuela's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Álvarez Herrera, Bernardo

Bernardo Álvarez Herrera has served as Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States since February 26, 2003. Álvarez holds a degree in Political Science from Universidad Central de Venezuela (1975-1980), and an MA in Development Studies from the University of Sussex, England (1980-1982).

 
From 1977-1980, he was a research assistant and an assistant professor at Universidad Central de Venezuela. He has also been a professor at Universidad Central de Venezuela from 1982 until the present.
 
From 1983-1985, Álvarez was an academic advisor at the Institute of High Studies on National Defense before becoming executive secretary of the working group on political reforms of the Presidential Commission for the Reform of the State from 1985-1986.
 
From 1986-1987, he was chief of the Research and Development Division at the Venezuelan Institute of Foreign Trade. From 1988-1991, he was executive secretary and Venezuelan representative in the Forum on Debt and Development (FONDAD).
 
Álvarez moved to the Council of the Faculty of Law and Political Science, Universidad Central de Venezuela, becoming its representative from 1989-1993. From 1990-1992, he was again an academic advisor at the Institute of High Studies on National Defense, as well as a professor at the Superior School of the Venezuelan Air Force. Herrera also served as Director of Cooperation at Universidad Central de Venezuela from 1993-1994.
 
From 1999-2000, he was Director-General of Hydrocarbons for the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and was promoted to vice minister (2000-2003). Also during this time, he served as Venezuelan Representative to the Energy Council of the United States, a position that continues to this day.
           
From 2000-2001, Álvarez washead of the Venezuelan Delegation to the Conferences of Ministers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and from 2000-2002, he was Venezuelan Coordinator for the Cooperation Agreement between the Venezuelan Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Department of Energy of the United States. He also served as Venezuelan Coordinator of the Venezuelan, French Energy Task Force (Venezuelan Ministry of Energy and Mines, and French Ministry of Industry) from 2000-2002.
 
Álvarez speaks Spanish, English and French.
 

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Venezuela's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela

Caulfield, John
ambassador-image

John Caulfield took over the leadership of the US Embassy in Caracas as Chargé d’Affaires following the expulsion of US Ambassador Patrick Duddy in September 2008. Originally from New Jersey, Caulfield graduated from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia with a degree in international relations and Latin American studies.

 
Earlier in his career he held assignments as country officer for Argentina and later Brazil, and served overseas in Colombia, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Brazil.
 
Caulfield has held a series of positions dealing with Latin America or consular affairs. He served as American consul general at Manila, Philippines, and consul at Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He has also directed the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
 
From 2002 to 2005 he was Deputy Chief of Mission at American Embassy Lima, Peru, before serving as consul general at the American Embassy in London.
 

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