Venezuela is a South American country situated along the northern coast of the continent – it is made up of a land mass plus a collection of smaller islands in the Caribbean Sea, with the capital city being Caracas. The country covers 353,841 square miles in total and is bordered continentally by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean (north), Colombia (west), Brazil (south), Trinidad and Tobago (north-east) and Guyana(east) – the Venezuelan government also lays claim to 61,600 square miles of Guayana Esequiba, as well as 27,527 square miles of maritime territory. Venezuela has the seventh highest number of species in the world and is extremely bio-diverse due to the variety of land it encompasses.
A sovereign state and federal republic, Venezuela is composed of 23 states, as well as a Capital District and a number of federal dependencies. It is a charter member of the UN, OAS, UNASUR, ALBA, Mercosur, LAIA and OEI. Decades of economic instability led to a major crisis in Bolivarian Venezuela that included hyperinflation, economic depression, good shortages and substantial unemployment, poverty, disease, malnutrition and criminal activity – the country is expected to reach an inflation rate of 1,370,000% by the end of 2018.
The legislative branch
The Venezuelan parliament is unicameral with a National Assembly of 165 seats, to which each state and the Capital District elect three representatives by popular vote – three seats are also reserved for Venezuela's indigenous peoples. All deputies in the Assembly serve for five years a time, and can be re-elected for up to ten additional terms; when the Assembly is out of session, its committee focuses on executive matters in an oversight function.
Venezuelan legislation changes can be prompted by the executive, legislative, judicial or citizen branches, as well as a public petition. A majority vote in the Assembly can override the objections of the president.
The voting age in Venezuela is 18, though it is not compulsory to do so.
The executive branch
The president of Venezuela, who is elected by a plurality vote, takes up office for a six-year term and can be re-elected perpetually in consecutive terms. He is both of the head of state and the head of the government in the country and wields substantial powers in his role, acting as commander-in-chief of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB), controlling the executive branch, appointing the cabinet, representing the country when abroad, and appointing judges (with the approval of the Assembly).
The president is responsible for appointing the Vice President, and can decide the size and makeup of the cabinet, to which he can make appointments as long as the Assembly clears them. He can also ask the legislature to consider changing aspects of the laws he takes issue with, but can be overridden easily.
The sitting president can also request that the National Assembly pass an enabling law granting him the right to rule by decree in regards to certain policy – this action needs a two-thirds majority vote in the Assembly, and has been invoked by six presidents in the country since 1959.
To be eligible for the presidency, candidates must be a Venezuelan citizen from birth, be at least 30 years old, not be subject to any convictions, and must not be a Minister, Governor, Mayor or the Vice President of the Republic.
The current president of Venezuela is Nicolás Maduro Moros of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. He has been in office since 6 March 2013, having been elected during the 2013 presidential election, and then re-elected again in 2018.
The judicial branch
The judicial branch of the Venezuelan government is overseen by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, which can meet in specialized chambers or in plenary session. 32 justices are appointed by the National Assembly, each of whom serve 12-year terms in office. The judicial branch also comprises lower courts (including district courts), municipal courts, and courts of first instance.
The citizens branch
The citizens branch of the Venezuelan government is made up of three components – the prosecutor commander, the "defender of the people" (or ombudsman), and the comptroller private. These officers act together as the "Republican Moral Council", in addition to fulfilling their own individual functions. They take up office for seven-year terms, and are appointed by the National Assembly. They are required to submit to the Supreme Tribunal actions they perceive as illegal, especially of those actions break constitutional law.