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     Venezuela was colonized by Spain in 1522, when it hosted the Spanish Empire's first permanent South American settlement. Originally, Venezuela was part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, but later became part of the Viceroyalty of New Grenada. After a series of uprisings, Venezuela declared independence on July 5, 1811. This began the Venezuelan War of Independence. The country achieved independence from Spain in 1811. While the liberation was achieved by the participation of many actors, it is generally credited to the Caracas-born Simon Bolivar aided by Jose Antonio Paez and Antonio Jose de Sucre. Although Venezuela was no longer a colony of Spain, it still belonged to Gran Colombia until 1830, when a rebellion led by Paez called for the proclamation of a new Republic of Venezuela. Paez became the Republic's first president.

Venezuela suffered through a pattern of political turmoil and dictatorial rule for much of the 19th century. During the first half of the 20th century, caudillos dominated the political system. Following the death of Juan Vincente Gomez in 1935, pro-democracy movements forced the military out of politics in 1958. After 1958, Venezuela was dominated by the two major political parties - COPEI (Christian Democrats) and AD (Democratic Action) - in what is known as puntofijismo. During this period, the country experienced waves of economic success and failure due to the discovery of oil in the country and accumulated internal and external debt.

In 1992, the country became frustrated with its situation, and a coup was attempted by the young junior officer, Hugo Chavez Frias. Although the coup failed, Chavez ran in the 1998 presidential elections and won with resounding support, beginning what he terms the "Bolivarian Revolution." In fact, the 1999 Constitution renamed Venezuela from the Republic of Venezuela to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in honor of the liberator, Simon Bolivar. Chavez won re-election in 2000 and again in 2006, even after he was briefly removed from office by a coup in 2002.





Updated: 25 February 2008