Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 993 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
VENEZUELA,1 a republic of South America, facing the Caribbean sea, and bounded E. by British Guiana and Brazil S. by Brazil and W. by Colombia. Its boundary with Colombia is unfixed, a decision by the king of Spain, as arbitrator, in March 1891, having been rejected by Venezuela. The boundary dispute with British Guiana was settled in October 1898 by an arbitration court in Paris. The line is subject to any question between the two countries and Brazil. The boundary with Brazil was fixed by a special commission in ,880. The republic lies between lat. 1° 4o' S. and 12° 26' N., long. 59° 40' and 739 31' W., and has an area of 599,538 sq. m. according to the Venezuelan Year Book of 1go6. This area, however, was subject to the settlement of the Colombia boundary line, and the measurement is only approximate. ' Topography.—The surface of Venezuela is broken into three very irregular divisions by its mountain systems: (i) the mountainous area of the N.W. and N.; (2) the Orinoco basin with the llanos on its northern border and great forested areas in the S. and S.W.; and (3) the Guiana highlands. A branch of the eastern chain, of the Andes enters Venezuela in the west about 7° N. lat., and under the name of the Sierra Nevada de Merida proceeds north-eastwards towards Trieste Gulf. This branch consists of parallel chains enclosing elevated valleys, in one of which lies the town of Merida at the height of 5410 ft., overlooked by the highest summit of the chain (Picacho de la Sierra, 15,420 ft.). The sierra contains the water-parting between the basin of the Orinoco and those of the small rivers on the north-west. Hence it may be considered to terminate where the Rio Cojedes, which drains the elevated valley in which Barquisimeto stands, after rising on its western slopes flows eastwards into the basin of the Orinoco. Beyond the Cojedes begin two parallel ranges known as the Maritime Andes of Venezuela, which stretch east and west along the coast. The valley, between these two ranges is the most densely peopled part of Venezuela. Above Caracas the highest peak of the system, Silla de Caracas, rises to 8531 ft. Behind the wide bay between Cape Codera and Cumana there is an interruption in the Maritime Andes; but both ranges reappear between Cumana and the Gulf of Paria. West of the Maritime Andes low ranges (3500-5000 ft.) trend northwards from the end of the Sierra de Merida towards the coast on the east side of the Lake of Maracaibo, while the region on the west of that lake consists of lagoon-studded lowlands. East and south of the Sierra de Merida and the Maritime Andes the region is thinly populated and little known. It consists of two portions—a vast, hilly or mountainous area, densely wooded, in the south-east and south, and level plains in the north-west between the Orinoco and the Apure and the mountains. The latter is known as the llanos of the Orinoco, a region described by Humboldt as a vast " sea of grass," with islands of wood scattered here and there. Since the time of Humboldt, however, the aspect of these plains would seem to have changed. On the occasion of Karl F. Appun's visit in 185o trees seem still to have been comparatively rare; but a different aspect was presented when Dr P. Jonas visited the llanos in 1878. From the Galera, the southernmost range of hills north of the Orinoco basin, the traveller saw a vast plain thickly grown with low trees. As far as Calabozo (about one-third of the distance between the hills and the Apure) it was now chaparros (Curatella americana), now mimosas, which were the prevailing feature of the landscape. But towards the south the open grass-covered spaces increased in number and area. To the south of Calabozo wood's of consider-able extent were seen. This change is due to the decline of horse-and cattle-rearing in the llanos, partly in consequence of political disturbances and partly of a murrain which broke out in 1843 among horses, mules and asses. The decline in stock-raising would also suspend the practice of burning off the dead grass to improve the new pasturage. Along the Brazilian frontier and about the sources of the Orinoco tributaries on the eastern slopes of the Andes there are extensive forests, sometimes broken with grassy cameos. The surface of the llanos is almost a dead level, the general elevation i The name means " little Venice," and is a modification of the name of Venecia (Venice), originally bestowed by Alonzo de Ojeda in 1499 on an Indian village, composed of pile dwellings on the shores of the Gulf of Maracaibo, which was called by him the Gulf of Venecia.varying from about 375 to 400 it., rising almost imperceptibly to 600-800 ft. around its immediate margins, So uniform: is the level over a great, part of these plains that in the rainy season hundreds of 'square miles are submerged, and' the country • is covered with a network of connecting channels. When the Orinoco is reached its lower basin is contracted between the Guiana highlands and the northern sierras, and its tributaries begin to come in more nearly at right angles, showing that the margins of the actual valley are nearer and higher. About 62° 3o' the great river reaches what may be considered sea-level, and from this point numerous channels find their way. across the silted-up delta plain to the sea. This region, together with that of the Guiana frontier, is heavily forested. In the extreme S. (territory of Amazonas) and S.E. the surface again rises into mountain ranges, which include the Parima and Pacaraima sierras on apd adjacent, to the Brazilian frontier, with a number of short spurs reaching northward toward the Orinoco, such as the Mapichi, Maraguaca, Maigualida, Mates, Rincote and Usupamo. All this region belongs to the drainage basin of the Orinoco, and rivers of large volume flow down between these spurs. Some of the culminating points in, these ranges are the Cerros Yaparana (7175 ft.) and Duida (812o ft.) in the Parima sierras near the upper. Orinoco, the Sierra de Maraguaca (8228 ft.), and the celebrated. flat-topped Mt Roraima (8530 ft.) in the Pacaraima sierras on the boundary line with. Brazil and British Guiana. Near the Orinoco the general. elevation drops to about 15oo ft. All this region is densely forested, and is inhabited only by scattered tribes of Indians. Probably not less, than, four-fifths of the territory of Venezuela belong to the drainage basin of the Orinoco (q.v.). The Orinoco is supposed to have 436 tributaries. of which, among the largest, the Caroni-Paragua, Are, Caura, Cuchivero, Suapure, Sipapo and Ventuari have their sources in the Guiana highlands; the Suata, Manepere and Guaritico in the• northern sierras; and the Apure, Uricana, Arauca, Capanaparo, Meta, Vichada and Guaviare (the last three being Colombian rivers) in the llanos and Andes. The Apure receives two large tributaries from the northern sierras—the Guarico and Portuguesa. Apart from these, the rivers of Venezuela are small and, except those of the Maracaibo basin, are rarely navigable. The larger are the Guanipa and Guarapiche, which flow eastwards to the Gulf of Paria; the Aragua, Unare and Thy, which flow to the Caribbean coast E. of Caracas; the Yaracui, Area and Tocuyo to the same coast W. of Caracas; andhthe Motatan, Chama, E.scalante, Catatumbo, Apan`and Palmas, which discharge into Lake Maracaibo. The hydrography of the region last mentioned, where the lowlands are flat and the rainfall heavy, is extremely complicated owing to the great number of small' rivers and of lakes on or near the lower river courses. The deep lower courses of: these streams and the small neighbouring lakes were once part of the great lake itself, which is being slowly filled by silt. The lakes of Venezuela are said to number 204. The largest are the Maracaibo (q.v.); El. Zulia, with an area of 290 sq. m., a short distance S. of Maracaibo among a large number of lakes, lagoons and swamps; Valencia, near the city of that name, in the Maritime Andes, about 1350 ft, above sea-level, with an area of 216 sq. m.; Laguneta, in the state of Zulia; and Taciragua, a coastal lagoon in the state of. Miranda. There are numerous lagoons in the ?lane districts caused by the periodical floods of the rivers, and extensive esteros and cienagas, in part due to the same causes, but these either dry up in the dry season or are greatly reduced in area. . The coast outline of Venezuela is indented with a large number of gulfs and bays, comparatively few of which, however, are open to foreign commerce. The larger indentations are the Gulf of Maracaibo, or Venezuela, which extends inland through the Lake of Maracaibo, with which it is connected, by, a comparatively narrow channel, and is formed by the peninsulas of Goajiraand Paraguana; the Gulf of Paria, between the peninsula of that name and the island of Trinidad; the Gulf of Coro, opening into the Gulf of Maracaibo; the Gulf of Cariaco, between the peninsula of Araya and the state of Bermudez; the Golfo Triste, on the E. coast of the state of Lara; and the small Gulf of Santa Fe, on the northern coast of Bermudez. Besides these there are a number of small indentations, sheltered anchorages formed by islands and reefs like, that of Puerto Cabello, and estuaries and also open roadsteads, like those of La Guaira and Carupano, which serve important ports. The islands on the coast forming part of the national territory number 71, with an aggregate area of 14,633 sq. m., according to official calculations. The largest of these is the island of Margarita, N. of the 'peninsula of Araya, in the vicinity of which is the island of Tortuga and several groups of islets, generally uninhabited. (A. J. L.) Geology.—Geologically Venezuela consists of three distinct regions: (1) South of the Orinoco a great mass of granite, gneiss, pyroxenite and other crystalline rocks, continuous with that of Guiana and probably of 'Archean age. This mass also forms the bed of the Orinoco from its junction with the Apure nearly to its mouth, and it probably extends northwards for some distance beneath the more recent deposits of the plain. (2) The llanos. covered by deposits of Quaternary or late Tertiary age. (3) The mountain ranges of the north-west and north. These ranges appear to belong to two systems. The Cordillera of Merida is one of the opposed to that of Froissart. His democratic sympathies led him to support Etienne Marcel, and though he returned to his allegiance to the kings of France he remained a severe critic. Jean de Venette also wrote a long French poem, La Vie des trois Maries, about 1347. See Lacurne de Sainte-Palaye in Memoires de l'Academie, vols. viii. and xiii.; Geraud and Deprez in Melanges de l'ecole de Rome (1899), vol. xix. ; and A. Molinier, Les Sources de 1'histoire de France (1904), branches of the Andes, and the strike of the folds which compose it is usually from south-west to north-east. The Caribbean chain along the north coast is part of the Antillean system, and here the strike of the folds is nearly west to east or west-south-west to east-north-east. The two systems of folds meet about Barquisimeto, where the structure becomes very complex and is not thoroughly understood. The rocks of Falcon are believed by Sievers to belong to the Andean system; while the outlying peninsula of Paraguana probably belongs, geologically, to the same massif as Goajira and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria in Colombia. The oldest rocks in the country are the granites, gneisses, &c., of the southern massif and the crystalline schists which form the axis of the Cordillera and the Caribbean chain. In the latter range a few Ordovician fossils have been found, but in general the oldest strata which have yielded organic remains belong to the Cretaceous system. The Cretaceous beds form a band along each side of the Cordillera and along the southern flank of the Caribbean chain, and they spread over the greater part of the provinces of Falcon and Lara. The Lower Cretaceous consists chiefly of sandstones and shales and the Middle Cretaceous of very fossiliferous limestone. There is considerable difference of opinion as to the chronology of the succeeding beds, and the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary systems is drawn at various horizons by different observers. The Cerro de Oro series is the most important group of these beds and takes a considerable share in the formation of the mountain ranges. It belongs either to the Upper Cretaceous or to the Lower Tertiary, or possibly in part to the one and in part to the other.' (P. LA.) Climate.—The climate of Venezuela is everywhere tropical except where modified by altitude. In the Maritime Andes at and above the altitude of Caracas it may be described as semi-tropical, and in the still higher regions of western Venezuela it approaches the mild temperate. On the coast and the northern slopes of the Mari-time Andes the tropical heat is greatly modified by the trade-winds. At La Guaira the mean temperature for the year is 85° F., at Caracas (3025 ft.) it is 71.2° (or 66.2° according to an official return), at Cumana it is 83°, at Valencia 76°, Coro 82°, Barquisimeto 78°, Yaritagua 80.6°, Merida 61°, Trujillo 72°, and Maracaibo 81 °. South of the sierras, however, the climate is much drier and hotter. The low temperatures of the night in these regions lower the mean annual temperatures. At Calabozo, for instance, the mean is about 88°, though the maximum in summer is not far from loo°. At Ciudad Bolivar, which, is less sheltered from the trade-winds, the mean is 83° and the maximum 91.4°. The lowest temperatures re-corded in official reports are those of Mucuchies, in the state of Merida, where the maximum is 68°, the minimum 43° and the mean 56°. The year is divided into two seasons, the dry and wet, the latter occurring from April to October, when the temperature is also the highest. On the llanos the dry season destroys the pasturage completely; dries up the small streams and lagoons, and compels many animals of semi-aquatic habits to aestivate. At Caracas the annual rainfall ranged from 602 to 863 millimetres between 1894 and 1902. In general the zlimate of Venezuela is healthy wherever the ocean winds have free access. Sheltered places in the lowlands, especially near streams and lagoons, are malarial and enervating, and at some points on the coast are subject to dangerous fevers. The sanitary condition is generally bad, and many forms of disease prevail that are not due to the climate. Fauna.—The fauna and flora of Venezuela are similar in nearly all respects to thoseof the neighbouring regions of Guiana, Brazil and Colombia, the-open llanos of the Orinoco being something of See G. P. Wall, " On the Geology of a part of Venezuela and of Trinidad," Quart. 7ourn. Geol. Soc. London, vol. xvi. (186o), pp. 46o-7o, pl. xxi. ; H. Karsten, Geologie de la Colombie Bolivarienne (Berlin, 1886) ; W. Sievers, " Karten zur physikalischen Geographie von Venezuela," Peterm. Mittheil. vol. xlii. (1896), pp. 125-29, p1 x.a neutral district between the. great forested regions on the E., S. and W. Among the animals indigenous to the country are seven species of the cat family, including the puma, the jaguar and the ocelot; the wild dog (Canis Aaaras); several representatives of the marten family, including two species of Galictis, two of the otter (Lutra brasiliensis and L. pieronura) and one of the skunk; two species of bear (Ursus ornatus and U. nasutus) ; and the kinkajou." There are six species of monkey corresponding to those of Guiana and the Amazon valley, the sloth and. ant-eater, 12 known genera of rodents, including many species of Mures, the cavy, the capybara, the paca, the nutria, the agouti, the tree porcupine, Loncheres cristata, Echimys cayen and the Brazilian hare. Among the pachyderms the tapir is found in the forests of the Orinoco. There are two species of the peccary, Dicotyles torquatus and D. labiatus. There are also 2 species of deer, Cervus rufus and C. simplicornis. There are 3 species of opossum. On the coast and in the Orinoco there may be found the manatee and the dolphin. The Reptilia include II species of the crocodile, alligator and lizard, including the savage jacar6 of the Amazon, several species of -turtle, 4 species of batrachians, and 29 species of serpents, including the striped rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus), Lachesis mutus, and a rather rare species of Cophias. Among the non-venomous species, the commonest are the boa-constrictor, the anaconda (Eunectes murinus) and the Smarr waixkNsa Coluber variabilis. Bird life is represented chiefly by migratory species, particularly of genera that inhabit the shores of streams and lagoons. The shallow lagoons of the llanos, like those of the Argentine pampas, are favourite fishing grounds for these birds. In the garzeres of Venezuela ate to. be found nearly every kind of heron, crane, stork and ibis, together with an incredible number of Grallatores. Ducks are also numerous in species and individuals, including a small bird called the guiriri, in imitation of its cry. Birds of prey are numerous. One species, the guacharo (Steatornis caripensis), or oil-bird, is commonly said to ' occur only in Venezuela, •though it is found in Colombia and Ecuador also, They live in caves, especially in Caripe, and are caught in large numbers for the oil extracted from them, which is commonly known as " Caripe butter." The bell-bird (Chasmorhynchus carunculatus) is common in the forests of the Orinoco. Insect life is perhaps poorer and less varied than in Brazil, but in the 14 orders of insects there are no less than 98 families, each including many genera and species. There are 8 families of Coleoptera, 6 of Orthoptera, 23 of Hymenoptera, 14 of Lepidoptera and 7 of Diptera. Locusts are very numerous in the interior, and commit great ravages. Molluscs are common on the coasts, including the pearl-oyster, and in the fresh-water streams and lakes. The coral polyp is also found in Venezuelan waters. The domestic animals A 990 of Venezuela—the horse, ass, ox, sheep, goat, hog, dog, cat, &c.—are not indigenous. Flora:—The flora of Venezuela covers a wide range because of the vertical climatic zones. The coastal zone and lower slopes of all the mountains, including the lower Orinoco region and the Maracaibo basin, are clothed with a typical tropical vegetation. There is no seasonal interruption in vegetation. The tropical vegetation extends to an altitude of about 1300 ft., above which it may be classed as semi-tropical up to about 3500 ft., and temperate up to 7200 ft., above which the vegetation is Alpine. Palms grow everywhere; among them the coco-nut palm (Cocos nucifera) is the most prominent. There are some exotics in this zone, like the mango, which thrive so well that they are thought to be indigenous. The cacau is at .its best in the humid forests of this region and is cultivated in the rich alluvial valleys, and the banana thrives everywhere, as well as the exotic orange and lemon. On the mountain slopes orchids are found in great profusion. Sugar-cane is cultivated in the alluvial valleys and coffee on their slopes up to a height of about 2000 ft. Among the many tropical fruits found here are bananas, guavas, mangoes, cashews, bread-fruit, aguacates, papayas, zapotes, granadillas, oranges, lemons and limes. In the next zone are grown many of the cereals (including rice), beans, tobacco, sugar-cane, peaches, apricots, quinces and strawberries. The Ilexes have some distinguishing characteristics. They are extensive grassy plains, the lowest being the bed of an ancient inland lake about which is a broad terrace (mesa), the talus perhaps of the ancient encircling highlands. The lower level has extensive lagoons and swampy areas and suffers less from the long periodical drought. Its wild grasses are luxuriant and a shrubby growth is found along many of its streams. The decline to stock-breeding resulted in a considerable growth of trees and chaparral over the greater part of the plain A large part of the chaparral 'consists of the chaparao, a low evergreen oak of hardy characteristics, mixed with mimosa, desmauthus, zonia and others. Much of this r ion is covered with amelote, a tall, worthless, grass ith sharp stiff blades. One of the most remarkable palms of the Orinoco region is the " moriche " (Mauritia' flexuosa). The fruit is edible and its juice is made into beer; the sap of the tree is made into wine, and its pith into bread; the leaves furnish an excellent thatch, and the fibre extracted from their midribs is used for fish lines, cordage, hammocks, nets, &c.; and the wood is hard and makes good building material. The fruit of the Guilielma is also widely used for food among the natives. -Among other forest trees of economic importance are the silk-cotton tree (Bombexceiba), the Palo de taco, or cow-tree (Brosimum galactodeaelson), whose sap resembles milk and is used for that purpose, the Ingo saman, the Hevea guayanensis, celebrated in the production of rubber, and the Attglea speciosa, distinguished for the length of its leaves. The principal economic plants of the country are cacau, coffee, cassava (manioc) called " mandioca " in Brazil, Indian corn, beans, sweet potatoes, taro, sugar-cane, cotton and tobacco. Of these coffee and sugar-cane were introduced by Europeans. Population.—The population of Venezuela is largely a matter of conjecture, no census having been taken since the third general census of 1891, which gave a total population of 2,323,527, of which 1,137,139 were males and 1,186,388 females, and there were 02,898 foreign residents. The official Handbook of Venezuela for 9o4 estimated the population for the preceding year as 2,663,671. The population consists of a small, percentage of whites of European - descent, chiefly Spaniards, various tribes and settlements of Indians, largely of the Arawak and Carib families, and a large percentage of mestizos, or mixed bloods. There is a large admixture'of'Atrican blood. Hubner estimates the mixed of all races at 93%, the highest among all the South American nationalities, and the creoles at 1% only; but this is clearly incorrect. Perhaps a closer approximation would be to rate the creole element (whites of European descent) at to%, as in Colombia, and the mixed races at 7o%, the remainder consisting of Africans, Indians and resident foreigners. Territorial Divisions.—The territorial divisions of Venezuela have been subjected to many changes. Under the constitution of the 27th of April 1904, the republic was divided into 13 states, 1 federal district and 5 territories, the names of which are as follows; those of the capital cities being given in brackets: Federal District (Caracas and La Asuncion); Aragua (La Victoria); Berm1dez (Cumana); Bolivar (Ciudad Bolivar); Carabobo (Valencia); Falcon (Coro); Guarico (Calabozo); Lara (Barquisimeto); Merida (Merida); Miranda (Ocumare); Tachira (San Cristobal); Trujillo (Trujillo); Zamora (San Carlos); Zulia (Maracaibo), with the following territories: Amazonas (San Fernando de Atabapo) ; Cohan (Gran Roque) ; Cristobal Colon (Cristobal ColOn);Delta-Amacuro(San Jose de Amacuro) ; Yaruari (Guacipaji). On the 5th of August 1909, however, a new division was promulgated, giving 20 states, I federal district and 2 territories. Under this division some of the recognized administrative units were greatly altered in area or even abolished, and the capital status of several cities was apparently affected. The division was as follows: Federal District (Caracas) ; Anzoategui • (Barcelona ; Apure (San Fernando de Apure) ; Aragua (La Victoria) ; Bolivar (Ciudad Bolivar); Carabobo (Valencia) ; Cojedes (San Carlos); Falcon (Coro) ; Guarico (Calabozo) ; Lara (Barquisimete) ; Merida (Merida); Miranda (Ocumare); Monagas (Maturin) ; Nueva Esparta (La Asuncion); Portuguesa (Guanare); Sucre (Cumana); Tachira (San Cristobal); Trujillo (Trujillo) ; Yaracuy (San Felipe) ; Zamora (Barinas) ; Zulia (Maracaibo), with the following territories: Amazonas (San Fernando, de Atabapo); Delta-Amacuro (Tucupita). Communications and Commerce.—T here has been no great development of railway construction in Venezuela, partly on account of political insecurity and partly because of the backward industrial state of the country. In 1908 there were only 13 railway lines with a mileage of about 540 in., including the short lines from Caracas to El Valle and La Guaira to Maiquetia and Macuto, and the La Vela and Coro. The longest of these is the German line from Caracas to Valencia (Ili m,), and the next longest the Great Tachira, rynnin from Encontrada on Lake Maracaibo inland to Uraca (71 m.), with a projected extension to San Cristobal. Another line in the Lake Maracaibo region is known as the Great La Ceiba, and runs from a point near the lake to the vicinity of Valera and Trujillo. An important line connects the thriving city of Barquisimeto with the port of Tucacas. The best known of the Venezuelan railways is the short line from La Guaira to Caracas (221 m.), which scales the steep sides of the mountain behind La Guaira and reaches an elevation of 3135 ft. before arriving at Caracas: It is a British enterprise, and is one of the few railways in Venezuela that pay a dividend. The Puerto Cabello and Valencia line (34m.) is another British undertaking and carries a good traffic. A part of this line is built with a central cog-rail. Probably a return to settled political ,and industrial conditions in Venezuela will result in a large add??tion to its railway mileage, as a means of bringing the fertile inland districts into direct communication with the coast. In steamship lines the republic has almost nothing to show. A regular service is maintained on Lake Maracaibo, one on Lake Valencia, and another on the Orinoco, Apure and Portuguesa rivers, starting from Ciudad Bolivar. The coast of Venezuela has an aggregate length of 1876 m., and there are 32 ports, large and small, not including those of Lakes Maracaibo and Tacarigua and the Orinoco. The great majority of these have only a limited commerce, restricted to domestic exchanges...-The first-class ports are La Guaira, Puerto Cabello, Ciudad Bolivar, Maracaibo and Carupano„and the second-class are Sucre, Juan Griego; Guiria, Cairo Colorado, Guanta,-Tucacas, La Vela and Porlamar. The commerce of these ports, both in the foreign and domestic trade, is small, tariff regulations being onerous, and the people too impoverished to be consumers of much beyond the barest necessaries of life. The total foreign trade in 1908 amounted to $9,778,810 imports and $14,560,830 exports, the values being in U.S. gold. The exports to the United States were valued at $5,550,073 and to France $5,496,627. The principal exports were coffee, cacau, divi-divi, rubber, hides and skins, cattle and asphalt. The imports include manufactured articles of all kinds, hardware and building materials, earthenware and glassware, furniture, drugs and medicines, wines, foodstuffs, coal, petroleum and many other things. The coasting trade is largely made up of products destined for exportation, or imports trans-shipped from the first-class ports to the smaller ones which have no direct relations with foreign countries. In the absence of statistical returns it is impossible to give the values of this branch of trade. The exchanges of domestic products are less important than they should be. The Orinoco trade is carried on almost wholly through Port of Spain, Trinidad, where merchandise and produce is transferred between light draught river boats and foreign ocean-going steamers. The distance from Port of Spain to Ciudad Bolivar is 299 in. and the traffic is carried by foreign-owned steamers. Under the administration of President Cipriano Castro this traffic was suspended for a long time, and trans-shipments were made at La Guaira. Above Ciudad Bolivar transportation is effected by two or three small river steamers and a great number of small craft (leeches, bungos, balandras, &c.), using sails, oars and punting poles. Agriculture.—The principal industries of Venezuela are agricultural and pastoral. Both have suffered heavily from military operations, but still they have remained the basis of Venezuelan wealth and progress. Much the greater part of the republic is fertile and adapted to cultivation. irrigation, which has not been used to any great extent, is needed in some parts of the country for the best results, but in others, as in the valleys and on the northern slopes of the Maritime Andes, the rainfall is sufficiently well distributed to meet most requirements. The long dry season of the Llano: and surrounding slopes, which have not as yet been devoted to cultivation, will require a different system of agriculture with systematic irrigation. In colonial times the Banos were covered with immense herds of cattle and horses and were inhabited by a race of hardy, expert horsemen, the llaneros. Both sides in the War of Independence drew upon these herds, and the llaneros were among the bravest in both armies. The end of the war found the /lanes a desert, both herds and herdsmen having nearly disappeared. Successive civil wars prevented their recovery, and these great plains which ought to be one of the chief sources of meat supply for the world are comparatively destitute of stock, and the only source of revenue from this industry is the small number of animals shipped to the West Indies. The breeding of goats and swine is an important industry in some regions. The climatic conditions are not so favourable as in Argentina, but these are counterbalanced to some extent by the great river system of the Orinoco, whose large navigable tributaries cross the plains from end to end, and whose smaller streams from the surrounding highlands provide superior opportunities for water storage and irrigation. On the mesas alfalfa could be substituted for the native grasses and be used for stock when the pasturage of the lower plains is not available. Other industries of the colonial period were the cultivation of indigo and tobacco. The former has nearly disappeared, but the latter is still one of the more important products of the country. The best known tobacco-producing localities are Capadare, Yaritagua, Merida, Cumanacoa, Guanape, Guaribe and Barinas. The best quality is that from the Capadare district, in the state of Falcon, which rivals that of the Vuelta Abajo of Cuba. No effort is made to improve the Venezuelan product, a part of which is exported to Cuba for cigar making. The principal agricultural products are coffee, cacau (cacao), sugar, Indian corn and beans. Coffee was introduced from Martinique in 1784 and its exportation began five years later. It is grown at elevations of 1600 to 3000 ft., and the yield is reported to be i to 1 lb per tree, which is much less than the yield in Sao Paulo, Brazil. An official work (Veloz Goiticoa, Venezuela, Washing-ton, 1904) gives the number of coffee trees in Venezuela as 250,000,000 belonging to 33,000 estates; the output was 42,806 tons in 1907. Several grades are produced in Venezuela, determined by geographical position, altitude and method of curing and preparing for market. The Maracaibo type from the mountain-slopes of Merida, Trujillo and Tachira is perhaps the best known and brings the best price. Cacau (Theobroma cacao) is an indigenous product and is extensively cultivated on the Caribbean slopes. It requires a high temperature (about 8o° F.), rich soil and a high degree of humidity for the best development of the tree. The tree has an average height of 12–13 ft., begins bearing five years after planting, requires little, attention beyond occasional irrigation, bears two crops a year (June and December), and produces well until it is forty years of age—the yield being from 490 to 600 lb per acre of zoo trees. There are two grades of Venezuelan cacau—the criollo or native, and the trinitario, or Trinidad, the first being superior in quality. The best cacau comes from the vicinity of Caracas and is marketed under that name. The exportation of 1907 was about 14,000 tons. Sugarcane is not indigenous, but it is cultivated with marked success in the lowlands of Zulia, and at various points on the coast. The industry, however, has not kept pace with its development in other countries aid, in great part, still employs antiquated methods and machinery. Its principal product is " papel6n," or brown sugar, which is put on' the market in the shape of small cylindrical and cubical masses of It to Sit lb weight. This quality is the only one consumed in the country, with the exception of a comparatively small quantity of granulated, and of refined sugar in tablets prepared for people of the well-to-do classes. The annual output is about 3000 tons. Cotton was produced in several places in colonial times, but the output has declined to a few thousand pounds. The plant is indigenous and grows well, but, unlike cacau, it requires much manual labour in its cultivation and picking and does not seem to be favoured by the planters. Indian corn is widely grown and provides the staple food of the people, especially in the interior. Beans also are a common food, and are universally produced, especially the black bean. Wheat was introduced by the Spaniards immediately after their occupation of Venezuela, and is grown in the elevated districts of Aragua and the western states, but the production does not exceed home consumption. Rice is a common article of food and is one of the principal imports. Several states are offering bounties to encourage its cultivation at home. Other agricultural products are sweet potatoes, cassava (manioc), yuca, yams, white potatoes, maguey, okra, peanuts, pease, all the vegetables of the hot and temperate climates, oranges, lemons, limes, bananas, plantains, figs, grapes, coco-nuts, pine-apples, strawberries, plums, guavas, breadfruit, mangoes and many others. There are also many fruits found growing wild, like those of the cactus and various palms, and these are largely consumed. The forest products, whose collection and preparation form regular industries, are rubber (called Gaucho or goma), tonka beans, vanilla, copaiba, chique-chigu,e, sarsaparilla, divi-divi, dye-woods, cabinet-woods and fibres. The rubber forests are on the Orinoco and its tributaries of the Guiana highlands. Mining.—The principal minerals are gold, copper, iron, sulphur,coal, asphalt and petroleum. Silver,. tin, lead, mercury and recious stones are listed among the mineral resources of the country, ut no mines have been developed, and they are possibilities only. Gold is found throughout a wide area, but chiefly in the Yuruari region, about zoo m. S.W. of the principal mouth of the Orinoco and near the borders of British Guiana, where the famous El Callao mines are. These mines have produced as much as 181,040.2 Spanish oz. in one year (1886) and a total of I,2p,929.09 oz. from 1871 to 1890, while another report gives an output valued at $23,000,000 U.S. gold in the fifteen years from 1884 to 1899. The production since then has greatly declined. There are 14 copper mines in the country, those at Area, 7o m. W. of Puerto Cabello and in railway communication with Tucacas (89 m.), being the most productive. They date from 1605 and now belong to an' English company. The output from 1878 to 1891 was 329,218 tons of ore and 53,053 tons of regulus, valued at £2,7941986. Iron of a good quality has been found in the Imataca region, Delta-Amacuro territory, 53 m. from the " Boca Grande " of the Orinoco. The principal coal deposits developed are at Naricual, near Barcelona, and a railway has been constructed to bring the output to the port of Guanta. Asphalt is taken from several deposits—from Maracaibo, Cumana, and Pedernales in the Orinoco delta. The latter place also yields petroleum. Sulphur is mined near Carupano, and salt in Zulia and on the peninsula of Araya. The latter is a government monopoly, and the high prices at which it is sold constitutes serious prejudice to the people and to industries like that of meat packing. Pearl Fisheries.—One of the oldest of Venezuelan ,kndustries, the Margarita pearl fisheries, was prohibited in 1909 for an indefinite time because of the threatened extinction of the oyster beds. The industry dates from the first exploration of this coast and was probably carried on before that by the natives.: The fisheries are established about the islands of Margarita, Coche and Cubagua, the best producing beds being at El Tirane and Macanao, the first N.E. and the other N.W. of Margarita. The natives engaged in the fishery used some 400 sailboats of 3 to .15 tons capacity, and the beds were raked is search of pearl oysters. In 19oo a concession was granted for an exclusive right to fish for. pearls, &c., between Margarita and the coast, the contractor to use submarine apparatus. Manufactures.—There are few manufacturing industries in Venezuela, and these usually of the parasitic type, created by official favour and protected by high tariffs on imports ip, competition. The manufactures of this class include aerated waters, beer, candles, chocolate, cigarettes, cotton fabrics, hats, ice, matches, boots and shoes, drugs and medicines. There are a number of electric plants, three of, which use water power, one at El Eacantado„ to rn. from Caracas, one at Merida, and the third at San Cristobal, Tachira. The plants using steam for motive power are at Caracas, Maracaibo, Valencia and Puerto Cabello. There has been sortie development in the manufacture of agricultural machinery and implements, vehicles, pianos and furniture, and some older, industries, such as tanning leather and the manufacture of saddles and harness, the milling of wheat and Indian corn, distilling, soap-making, &c. At Guanta there is a factory for the manufacture of patent fuel from Naricual coal and asphalt. In 1901 there was one saladero, or meat-packing establishment, in the Orinoco-Apure region, but it did not prove successful because of the high cost of salt. Government.—The government' of Venezuela is that of a federal republic of nominally independent, self-governing states, administered according to the provisions of the con'stitution of the 27th of April 1904, modified or revised on the 5th of August 1909. The legislative power is nominally vested in a national Congress of two houses-the Senate and Chamber of Deputies—which meets at Caracas every two years on the 23rd of May, the session lasting 90 days. The Senate consists of two members from each state, or 4o members, who are elected by the state legislatures for a period of four years. A senator must be a native-born citizen and not less 'than thirty years of age. The Chamber consists of popular representatives, elected by direct vote, in the proportion of one deputy for each 35,000 of population, each state being entitled to at least one deputy, or two in case its population exceeds 15,000, the federal district and territories being entitled to representatives on the same terms. A deputy must also be a native-born citizen, not less than twenty-one years of age, and is elected for a period of four years. The executive power is vested by the constitution in a president, two vice-presidents and a cabinet of ministers. The president and vice-presidents. who must be Venezuelans by birth and more tnan thirty years old, are elected by an electoral body or council composed of members of the national Congress, one member from each state and the Federal District. This council elects by an absolute majority of votes. The presidential term is four years (it was six years under the constitution of 1904), and the president cannot succeed himself. The powers of the executive, direct and implied, are very broad and permit the exercise of much absolute authority. The president is assisted by a cabinet of seven ministers and the governor of the federal district, their respective departments being interior, foreign relations, finance and public credit, war and marine, fomento (promotion), public works and public instruction. The ministers are required to countersign all acts relating to their respective departments, and are held responsible both before Congress and the courts for their acts. The department of fomento is charged with the supervision of all matters relating to agriculture, stock-raising, mines, industries, commerce, statistics, immigration, public lands, posts, telegraphs and telephones. The department of the interior is also charged with matters relating to the administration of justice, religion and public worship. The judicial power is vested in a supreme federal court, called the Corte Federal y de Casacibn, and such subordinate tribunals as may be created by law. As the laws and procedure are uniform throughout the republic and all decrees and findings have legal effect everywhere, the state judicial organizations may be considered as taking the place of district federal courts, although the constitution does not declare them so. The federal court consists of 7 members, representing as many judicial districts of the republic, who are elected by Congress for periods of six years (Const. 1904), and are eligible for re-election. It is the supreme tribunal of the republic, having original jurisdiction in cases of impeachment, the constitutionality of laws, and controversies between states or officials. It is also a court of appeal (Casacibn) in certain cases, as defined by law. The judicial organization' of the states includes in each a supreme court of three members, a superior court, courts of first instance, district courts and municipal courts. The judicial terms in the states are for three years. In the territories there are civil and criminal courts of first instance, and municipal courts. The laws of Venezuela are well codified both as to law and procedure, in civil, criminal and commercial cases. The state governments are autonomous and consist of legislative assemblies composed of deputies elected by' ballot for a period of three years (Const. 1904), which meet in their respective state capitals on the 1st of December for sessions of thirty days, and for each a president and two vice-presidents chosen by the legislative assembly for a term of three years. The states are divided into districts and these into municipios, the executive head of which is a jefe politico. There is a municipal council of seven members in each district, elected by the municipios, and in each municipio a communal junta appointed by the municipal council. The governors of the federal territories are appointees of the president of the republic, and the jefe politico of each territorial municipio is an appointee of the governor. The Federal District is the seat of federal authority, and consists of a small territory surrounding Caracas and La Guaira, known in the territorial division of 1904 as the West district, and the island of Margarita and some neighbouring islands, known as the East district. There are two classes of citizens in Venezuela—native-born and naturalized. The first includes the children of Venezuelan parents born in foreign countries; the latter comprises four classes: natives of Spanish-American republics, foreign-born persons, foreigners naturalized through special laws and foreign women married to Venezuelans. The power of granting citizenship to foreigners is vested in the president of the republic, who is also empowered to refuse admission to the country to undesirable foreigners, or to expel those who have violated the special law (April it, 1903) relating to their conduct in Venezuelan territory. The right of suffrage is exercised by Venezuelan males over 21 years of age, and all electors are eligible to public office except where the constitution declares otherwise. Foreign companies are permitted to transactbusiness in Venezuela, subject to the laws relating to non-residents and also to the laws of the country governing national companies. Army.—The military forces of Venezuela consist nominally of about 20 battalions of infantry, of 400 men each and 8 batteries of artillery, of 200 men each. There is also a battalion of marines employed about the ports and in the arsenals. The organization and equipment is defective, and the force deficient in numbers and discipline. The police force and fire companies in the larger cities are organized on a military basis, and are sometimes used for military purposes. For a people so accustomed to revolutionary outbreaks, the Venezuelans are singularly deficient in military organization. There is no lack of officers of the highest grades, but the rank and file are not uniformed, equipped or drilled, and military campaigns are usually irregular in character and of comparatively short duration. It should be said that Venezuela has a modern military organization so far as law can make it. It is drawn in imitation of European models, and makes military service compulsory for all Venezuelans between 21 and 50 years. This national tome is divided into actives and reserves, the strength of the first being fixed by Congress, and all the rest, of unknown number, belong to the latter. The provisions of the law, however have never been enforced, and the actives or regular army are recruited by impressment rather than through conscription. There is a military academy at Caracas, and battalion schools are provided for officers and privates, but they are of little value. Education.—In popular education Venezuela has done almost nothing worthy of record. As in Chile, Peru and Colombia, the ruling classes and the Church have taken little interest in the education of the Indians and mestizos. Venezuela, it is true, has a comprehensive public instruction law, and attendance at the public schools is both gratuitous and nominally compulsory. But outside the cities, towns and large villages near the coast there are no schools and no teachers, nor has the government done anything to provide them. This law has been in force since about 187o, but on the 30th of June 1908 there were only 1150 public schools in the republic with a total enrolment of 35,777 pupils. There are a number of parochial and conventual schools, the church being hostile to the public-school system. An overwhelming majority of the people is illiterate and is practically unconscious of the defect. In 1908 the educational facilities provided by the republic, not including some private subventioned schools, were two universities and thirty-three national colleges. The universities are at Caracas and Merida, the latter known as the Universidad de los Andes. The Caracas institution dates from early colonial times and numbers many prominent Venezuelans among its alumni. The national college corresponds to the lyceum and high school of other countries. There are law, medical and engineering schools in the country, but one rarely hears of them. The episcopal seminaries are usually good, especially the one at Caracas. In addition to these, there are normal, polytechnic, mining and agricultural schools, the last at Caracas and provided with a good library and museum. There are several mechanics' schools (Arles y Oficios) in the larger cities, and a large number of• private schools. Further educational facilities are provided by anational library with about 50,000 volumes, a national museum,. with a valuable historical collection, the Cajigal Observatory, devoted to astronomical and meteorological work, and the Venezuelan Academy and National Academy of History—the first devoted to the national language and literature, and the second to its history. Religion.—The Roman Catholic is the religion of the state, but freedom of worship is nominally guaranteed by law. The president, however, is empowered to deny admission into the country of foreigners engaged in special religious work not meeting his approval. Practically no other form of worship exists in the country than that of the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant and other denominations holding their services in inconspicuous chapels or private apartments in the larger cities, where considerable numbers of foreigners reside. The state contributes to the support of the Church, builds its churches and provides for the salaries of its clergy, and at the same time it has the right to approve or reject all ecclesiastical appointments and to permit or forbid the execution of all decrees of the Roman See relating to Venezuela. The Church hierarchy consists of one archbishop (Caracas) and four suffragan bishops (Merida, Guayana, Barquisimeto and Guarico). Finance.—The financial situation in Venezuela was for a long time extremely complicated and discreditable, owing to defaults in the payment of public debts, complications arising from the guarantee of interest on railways and other public works, responsibility for damages to private property during civil wars and bad administration. To meet increasing obligations, taxation has been extended and heavily increased. The public revenues are derived from customs taxes and charges on imports and exports, transit taxes, cattle taxes, profits on coinage, receipts from state monopolies, receipts from various public services such as the post office, telegraph, Caracas waterworks, &c., and sundry taxes, fines and other sources. From 6o to 7o% of the revenue is derived from the custom-house, and the next largest source is the transit tax. The official budget returns for 1904-6 show the revenues and expenditures to have been 1904. 1905. 1906. Bolivares. Bolivares. Bolivares. Revenue • 57,576,741 49,385,379 49,293,067 Expenditure . . 52,925,521 54,718,163 51,874,694 A considerable part of the expenditure since 1903 consists of payments on account of foreign debts which Venezuela was compelled to satisfy. To meet these, taxes were increased wherever possible, thus increasing both sides of the budget beyond its normal for those years. The public debt of Venezuela dates back to the War of Independence, when loans were raised in Europe for account of the united colonies of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. The separation of the Colombian republic into its three original parts took place in 183o, and in 1834 the foreign debt contracted was divided among the three, Venezuela being charged with 281%, or £2,794,826, of which £906,430 were arrears of interest. Other items were afterwards added to liquidate other obligations than those included in the above, chiefly on account of the internal debt. Several con-versions and compositions followed, interest being paid irregularly. In 188o-81 there was a consolidation and conversion of the -re-public's foreign indebtedness through a new loan of £2,750,000 at 3 %, and in 1896 a' new loan of 50,000,000 bolivares (£1,980,198) for railway guarantees and other domestic obligations. In August 1904 these loans and arrears of interest brought the foreign debt up to £5,618;725, which in 1905 was converted into a diplomatic debt of £5,229,700 (3%). During these years Venezuela had been pursuing the dangerous policy of granting interest guarantees on the construction of railways by foreign corporations, which not only brought the government into conflict with them on account of defaulted payments, but also through disputed interpretations of contracts and alleged arbitrary acts on the part of ;government officials. In the civil wars the government was also held responsible for damages to these properties and for the mistreatment of foreigners residing in the country. Some of these claims brought Venezuela into conflict with the governments of Great Britain, Germany and Italy in 1903, and Venezuelan ports were blockaded and there was an enforced settlement of the claims (about £104,417), which were to be paid from 30% of the revenues of the La Guaira and Puerto Cabello custom-houses. This settlement was followed by an adjustment of all other claims, payment to be effected through the same channels. In 1908 (July 31) the total debt of Venezuela (according to official returns) consisted of the following items Bolivares. Consolidated internal debt . 63,171,818 Diplomatic debt (Spanish, French and Dutch) . 7,014,569 (French, 1903-4) 5,733,490 „ of 1905 . 132,049,925 Unconsolidated debt in circulation 4,561,742 Total 212,531,544 or, 'at 25i bolivares per £, £8,417,091 The currency of Venezuela is on a gold basis, the coinage of silver and nickel is restricted, and the state issues no paper notes. Foreign coins were formerly legal tender in the republic, but this has been changed by the exclusion of foreign silver coins and the acceptance of foreign gold coins as a commodity at a fixed value. Under the currency law of the 31st of March 1879, the thousandth part of a kilogramme of gold was made the monetary unit and was called a botivar, in honour of the Venezuelan liberator. The denominations provided for by this law are Gold: too, 5o, 20, 10 and 5 bolivares. Silver: 5, 2, 1 bolivares; 50, 20 (entimos. Nickel: 121 and 5 centimes. These denominations are still in use except the silver 2o-centimes piece, which was replaced by one of 25 centimes in 1891, The silver 5-bolivar piece is usually known as a " dollar,” and is equivalent to 481 pence, or 961 cents U.S. gold. The old peso " is no longer used except in accounts, and is reckoned at 4 bolivares, being sometimes described as a " soft " dollar. Silver and nickel are legal tender for 5o and 20 bolivares respectively. Paper currency is issued by the banks of Venezuela, Caracas and Maracaibo under the provisions of a general banking law, and their notes, although not legal tender, are everywhere accepted at their face value. The metric weights and measures have been officially adopted by Venezuela, but the old Spanish units are still popularly used throughout the country. ((A. J. L.) History.—The coast of Venezuela was the first part of the American mainland sighted by Columbus, who, during his third voyage in 1498, entered the Gulf' of Paria and sailed along the coast of the delta of the Orinoco. In the following year a much greater extent of coast was traced out by Alonzo de Ojeda, who was accompanied by the more celebrated Amerigo Vespucci. In 1550 the territory was erected into the captain-generalcy of Caracas, and it remained under Spanish rule till the early part of the 19th century. During this _period
End of Article: VENEZUELA
JEAN DE VENETTE (c. 1307-c. 1370)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.