The history of Venezuela is intimately intertwined with the development of its petroleum industry. As one of the primary producers of oil in the world, this product is determinant for the country, both politically and economically. The current president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frias, has been criticized for opposing the privatization of the oil industry and has been labeled as a communist dictator by the United States for his political agenda. In the following essay, I will present the current situation in Venezuela, placing it in its historical context and addressing issues the new Venezuelan Constitution, the importance of oil, membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and political instability in Venezuela.
First let us place the current situation in a historical perspective by looking at the events that have led to the present situation in Venezuela. Venezuela was under Spanish rule from 1499 until Napoleon I took control of Spain in 1810. This event served as a catalyst towards emancipation from Spain, under the direction of Francisco de Miranda who organized a resistance movement against the Spanish and the royalists. Although independence was declared by 1811, an earthquake destroyed cities held by the patriots and helped to forward the cause of the royalists. It was not until Simon Bolivar and his lieutenants (working from Colombia) intervened that Venezuelan independence was fully secured.
Simon Bolivar was born of a wealthy Creole family in Caracas. When the revolution against Spain broke out in 1810, he enthusiastically joined the rebel army. He has played a central role in Venezuelan history, and is commonly known throughout Latin American simply as “The Liberator” as he led in…
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