Ethnic Groups: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African and indigenous groups
Religion: Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%
GDP (purchasing power parity): $540.9 billion (2014 est.)
GDP per capita: $17,800 (2014 est.)
Unemployment: 7% (2014 est.)
Venezuela is located on the northern coast of South America
, sharing a border with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana.
The country's formal name is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
It is one of the world's top oil exporting countries,
according to the Energy Information Administration.
Despite being one of the world's top 10 oil-producing countries, more than 25% of Venezuelans live below the poverty line
1520s - First settlement by Spanish explorers.
July 5, 1811 - Venezuela declares its independence from Spain.
1821 - The Spanish Army is defeated. Venezuela gains independence as part of the Republic of Gran Colombia.
1830 - Venezuela breaks away from the federation to become an independent republic.
Venezuela experiences numerous revolutions, counter-revolutions, dictatorships and rule by military juntas.
1958 - Democracy is restored.
February 1992 -
A coup led by Hugo Chavez
is put down. Chavez spends two years in prison before being pardoned.
November 1992 - Another coup attempt is defeated.
December 1998 - Chavez is elected president by a landslide.
April 26, 1999 - Chavez signs a new law that allows him to bypass the Venezuelan Congress on economic reforms.
December 16, 1999 - Chavez's new constitution, which extends his term, allows him to run again, closes the Congress, and changes the name of the country to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is endorsed by the Venezuelan people in a referendum.
July 30, 2000 - Chavez is elected in a landslide victory to a new six-year term.
April 12, 2002 - A coup ousts Chavez for two days, but he is returned to power by loyal troops and supporters. Sixty people are killed during the turmoil.
October 22, 2002 - High-ranking military officers go on national television to denounce Chavez and call for the public to rally against him.
December 2, 2002 - A general strike begins. The strike lasts 64 days, costs Venezuela $4 billion in oil revenues, and affects oil prices worldwide. During the strike, crude output of oil is estimated at about 400,000 barrels a day, compared to the pre-strike level of 3 million barrels a day.
February 2, 2003 - Venezuelan opposition leaders stage a massive petition drive, collecting thousands of signatures endorsing a number of demands including the immediate removal of President Hugo Chavez.
October 5, 2003 - A campaign to recall President Chavez begins.
March 7, 2004 - Thousands of Venezuelans march against President Chavez, protesting an electoral council's decision that the opposition had not collected enough valid signatures to trigger a recall referendum.
June 3, 2004 - Venezuela's National Electoral Council announces that the opposition has collected enough valid signatures to call for a referendum against President Chavez.
August 15, 2004 - Initial results in the recall referendum show more than 58% of Venezuelans have voted to keep Chavez in office while 42% favor ousting him.
August 16, 2004 -
A group of observers led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter
announce that they found no fraud in the recall election.
December 3, 2006 - Chavez wins election to a new six-year term, with 62.9% of the vote.
February 15, 2009 - A constitutional referendum passes that will allow Chavez to run for a third six-year term in 2012.
May 24, 2011 -
The United States imposes sanctions against seven companies, including Venezuela's state oil company, for supporting Iran
in the energy sector.
May 2, 2012 - President Chavez names 10 Venezuelans to an influential commission called the Council of State. It is the highest circle of advisers to the president, but has never actually been formed. The timing of the appointments is significant, as speculation increases over who will succeed Chavez if he becomes too ill to govern, or if he dies. Among the members are: Vice President Elias Jaua, Jose Vincente Rangel, Roy Chaderton, German Mundarain, Rafael Giacopini, Luis Britto Garcia.
October 7, 2012 - Chavez is re-elected as president for a new six-year term, defeating opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski.
April 14, 2013 - Interim President Nicolas Maduro narrowly wins the presidential election with 50.8% of the vote, defeating opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski.
September 30, 2013 -
President Nicolas Maduro announces on state-run VTV that he is expelling three U.S. diplomats.
He claims they were involved in a widespread power outage earlier in the month. He says, "They have 48 hours to leave the country...Get out of Venezuela...Yankee go home. Enough abuses already."
February 12-18, 2014 -
Unrest in the country leads to demonstrations demanding major social and economic changes. During the demonstrations, supporters of the country's socialist government and anti-government protesters have flooded social media
with reports of violence, making drastically different claims about who's behind it.
February 18, 2014 -
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is arrested
on charges including conspiracy and murder in connection with the February clashes. Lopez's party, Popular Will has accused the government of responsibility for violence during anti-government protests.
February 20, 2015 - Intelligence agents arrest the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma -- a well-known opposition politician -- in a raid that sparks a fierce outcry from the president's political opponents. The arrest comes just days after President Maduro accused the mayor of involvement in a plot to overthrow the government. The opposition says the mayor's arrest is an attempt to divert attention from the country's economic woes.
September 10, 2015 -
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez
, a former mayor and presidential candidate, is sentenced to 14 years
December 6, 2015 - Venezuela's opposition party claims the majority of seats
in elections to the National Assembly, the first major shift in power in the legislative branch since the late President Hugo Chavez took office in 1999.