was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran
Colombia in 1830 (the others being Ecuador and New Granada, which
became Colombia). For most of the first half of the 20th century,
Venezuela was ruled by generally benevolent military strongmen, who
promoted the oil industry and allowed for some social reforms.
Democratically elected governments have held sway since 1959. Spanish
is the official language, but there are also numerous indigenous