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Venezuela is originally known as the Republic of Venezuela The countries estimated population is about 20562000 covering 352143 sq mi It is bordered by Brazil S Colombia W and SW Guyana E and the Caribbean Sea N Principal cities include Carcas the capital Venezuela has four major geographical regions the oil-rich coastal lowlands the Orionco River basin whose vast plains support a great cattle industry the Guiana Highlands a largely unexplored wilderness occupying more than half the nations territory and noted for scenic wonders such as Angel Falls and the densely populated Venezuelan highlands a spur of the Andes Mountains that rises to 16427 ft 5007 m in the Sierra Nevada de Mrida and that is the nations political and commercial hub Venezuela enjoys the highest percent income in Latin America of oil which has much wealth This was first exploited in 1918 which accounts for over 80 of its export earnings Coffee the mainstay of the economy before the oil boom is still produced other leading crops are cocoa sugarcane bananas corn sorghum and rice Manufactures include food products building materials textiles chemicals and automobiles The country established a customs union with Colombia in 1991 The population is 67 mixed descent 21 European descent 10 African descent and 2 indigenous peoples The principal language is Spanish and the main religion is Roman CatholicismAfter it gained independence in 1830 Venezuela was ruled chiefly by dictators until 1958 Peaceful elections have since distinguished the country as one of the most stable democracies in South America Even so tension over political corruption and a standard of living in steep decline forced the resignation of the president in 1993 A founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC the nation has proven oil reserves that will last a century at current production rates Riding a wave of oil prosperity in the 1970s Venezuela found itself awash in debt when the wave broke in the 1980s To
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