The following are key facts about Venezuela:
OIL: Venezuela has the world's largest proven oil reserves, according to OPEC. The government says Venezuela produces three million barrels of oil per day, although OPEC says the figure is 2.3 million. Oil production accounts for 90 percent of the country's hard-currency revenue.
ECONOMY: GDP stood at $320 billion in 2012, with 5.5 percent growth and 5.9 percent unemployment that year. The inflation rate has long been over 20 percent, and almost 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
POPULATION: 28.9 million, according to the National Statistics Institute. Of them, 19 million have the right to vote, including about 100,000 who live abroad, mostly in Spain and the United States.
POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS: Venezuela is a republic with power divided into five branches (executive, legislative, judicial, electoral and moral). The country comprises 23 states and the Capital District, which includes part of Caracas.
CONSTITUTION: The current one was approved in 1999 and an amendment passed in 2009 eliminated term limits for the president and other elected officials. Presidential terms last six years. Elections must be called within 30 days if the president becomes incapacitated.
RELIGION: 92 percent Roman Catholic.
HISTORY: Venezuela declared independence from Spain in 1811, and was part of a state called Gran Colombia, along with Ecuador and Colombia, from 1819 to 1830. After a brutal, decade-long dictatorship led by General Marcos Perez Jimenez ended in 1958, a democratic two-party system was ushered in, lasting 40 years. In 1992, lieutenant colonel Hugo Chavez led a failed coup against President Carlos Andres Perez. Six years later Chavez ran for president and won, taking office in 1999.