We have seen a significant amount of stories related to Venezuela and its current state of affairs in the news lately. The country is in turmoil due to corruption, poor economy, violence and a lack of resources. The citizens of Venezuela are without food, electricity, and medicine with the situation not seeming to clear up anytime soon. The media is flooded with heart-wrenching stories regarding Venezuelan politics and downturn; but it is also important to acknowledge other aspects of Venezuela, the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Largest Oil Reserves
Venezuela’s oil reserves are recognized as the largest in the world. It is estimated that they could have over 230 years of oil production remaining based on their current production rates. It also has large oil sands deposits similar to the ones you can find in Canada, located in what’s called the Orinoco Belt. The Orinoco Belt lies in the south of Venezuela and runs along the Orinoco River Basin. Unfortunately, the discovery of these oil reserves in the 20th century has led to increased political corruption and brought the country to where it is today.
The world’s highest waterfall, standing at 3,212 feet, can be found in Venezuela. Angel Falls is a beautiful sight to behold and surely one you should include on your bucket list, but maybe wait until the situation in Venezuela improves before booking your plane ticket. The falls are one of the top attractions in Venezuela to visit and can see as many as 900,000 tourists per year. The falls are also featured in the Disney animated film Up which was released in 2009.
Incredibly Diverse Climate
Feeling like going to the beach? They have that. Feeling like walking in a forest? They have that. Feel like going to a desert? They have that too. Venezuela is home to 27 climate zones and also ranks as one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Depending on where you go you can experience anything from a rainy Savannah to a tundra where temperatures range from zero to ten degrees Celsius. There is a lot of diversity, but not just with their climates. Having such an extensive range of weather and terrain allows for a wide variety of vegetation and crops to grow as well. Venezuela contains more than 2,800 species of vertebrates and over 1,000 species of fish.
Nationality, Diversity, and Immigration
If someone told you they were planning to move to Venezuela, you might think they’d be crazy. However, after World War II, Venezuela saw a large volume of newcomers to their country, particularly from Europe. People and families from Italy, Germany, Spain, and other European countries were fleeing Europe to start a new life in Venezuela. The country welcomes immigrants from all over the world and, to this day, creates a large amount of diversity among the Venezuelan people and their heritage.
No, Venezuela does not solely rely on oil sales to drive their (failing) economy, they also have plenty of mines including gold, bauxite, and coal. Venezuela is ranked third for coal production in South America and second for the largest gold reserves in the world. Earlier this year there were reports on illegal gold mining taking place in Venezuela. It is estimated that 100,000 people may be involved in illegal gold mining.
Schooling in Venezuela
The educational system in Venezuela is vastly different from the system we have here in North America. In North America, public schools are, for the most part, relatively safe environments to send your children to. However, in Venezuela, public schools can be very dangerous, and children are often required to use a transparent backpack which they must purchase themselves. Private schools are similar to our public schools here. However, students still need to buy all of their supplies and books. The quality of education is significantly lower in public schools as opposed to private schools and, unfortunately, private schools are only affordable by middle to upper-class families.
Downtown — Not A Walk In The Park
On a Saturday afternoon, you may decide to head downtown to check out the shops, eat at a patio or sightsee. Downtown is a very different scene though. There are often high-crime and ghetto-like zones consisting of mostly small shops and businesses and very few homes or apartments. Instead of heading downtown, Venezuelans will head to the beach or a mall instead to enjoy their time.
Homes in Venezuela have additional levels of security called “Reja”, which is a colloquial term for a metal door. Their entrance ways often require multiple keys to enter the home and windows include metal bars to prevent intruders. Some even have walls surrounding the full perimeter with electrical fencing on top of it. This is something North Americans are usually not accustomed to. Due to the overall high crime rate (Caracas, the capital city has the highest murders per capita in the world) these security measures need to be in place. You will usually not see anyone in walking in public holding their phone or any other electronic device in their hands.
The Government in Venezuela Owns Many Companies
Venezuela is a socialist country, and therefore the Government owns and runs a large portion of the businesses within the country. Sadly, 70 percent of these companies are crumbling. Due to corruption, many of these businesses are run by individuals favored by Maduro and his followers, therefore leading the companies to fail due to embezzlement or poor business practices.