General issues: Republic 1859-1863, United States of Venezuela 1863-1953, Republic 1953-1999, Bolivarian republic 1999-Present
Country name on general issues: Venezuela, Federacion Venezolana, EE U.U. de Veneza
- Private shipping companies: Cameron Macaulay 1864, Cameron Macaulay, St. Thomas 1864-1866, Cameron Macaulay, Venezuela 1864-1866, Jesurun 1869-1870
- Civil war issues: Local issues Carupano 1902-1903, Guayana State 1903, Maturin State 1903, Marino District 1903
- Local issues: Zulia 1891, Ciudad Bolivar 1892
Currency: 1 Peso = 8 Reales = 100 Centavos 1859-1879, 1 Venezolana = 100 Centesimos, 1879-1880, 1 Bolivar = 100 Centimos 1880-Present
Population: 2 445 000 in 1900, 30 410 000 in 2013
Political history Venezuela
Colonization and independence
Venezuela is located in South America. The indigenous population prior to colonization consisted of smaller Amerindian peoples. Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot on the soil of Venezuela in 1498. The Spanish colonized Venezuela from 1522. First, only the coastal region, later, in the 18th century, the interior of the country. Venezuela was made part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada of which it was made an autonomous Captaincy General in 1777.
After Napoleon had conquered Spain, a wave of independence movements swept across the Spanish possessions in South America. Venezuela was among the first to declare independence in 1811. Independence, at this stage, was short lived as royalists loyal to Spain regained control over most of the country. Independence from Spain is declared successfully in 1821 by Simón Bolívar – by 1823 the royalists were fully defeated. Venezuela was now part of the republic of Colombia – also known as Gran Colombia – that also included Colombia and Ecuador. Conflicts about a federal versus a centralist form of government lead to the dissolution of Gran Colombia, and Venezuela declares full independence as the republic of Venezuela in 1830.
From Caudillismo to democracy
All through the 19th century, Venezuela will be the stage for conflicts between the conservatives and the liberals – conflicts that several times lead to civil war, the most serious, probably, being the Federal War from 1859 to 1863. The liberals – advocating a federal government structure – come out victorious and Venezuela is proclaimed the United States of Venezuela in 1863, the provinces formally becoming states in 1864 following a change in the constitution. This period in the history of Venezuela is called the period of the Caudillismo. A caudillo is a strongman that gathers support for his cause, probably builds an army and tries – with or without success – to gain control of the government. Although nominally affiliated with the conservatives or the liberals, the caudillos would seem to have been mainly driven by personal ambition.
In 1899, Cipriano Castro comes to power and centralizes power, thus breaking down the privileges of the caudillos. From 1901 until 1903, the caudillos rebel. A civil war ensues, and in 1902 the caudillos control large parts of the country. By 1903, however, the caudillos are defeated. In the first part of the 20th century, central government is further established by a number of successive dictators. Central government having been established, Venezuela is proclaimed a republic in 1953. The first democratically elected president comes to office in 1958. Since 1958, Venezuela has been governed by democratically elected presidents – although democratic rights, such as freedom of the press, are at times limited. In 1998, Hugo Chaves comes to power. Chaves, in 1999, proclaims the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and turns Venezuela into a socialist style republic. In 2014, Chaves is succeeded by his second in command Nicolás Maduro.
The borders of Venezuela with Colombia are defined through treaties in 1891, those with Brazil in 1895. The border with Guyana is less easily defined. The British have, in 1814, taken over the Dutch colonies in Guyana and have subsequently settled on territory also claimed by Venezuela. The dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela, in 1895, leads to the First Venezuelan Crisis. Parties – under United States pressure – in 1897 agree to arbitrage which, in 1899, leads to a settlement for the border. Venezuela, in 1962, revokes its signature under the 1899 settlement on legal grounds and once again claims a large part of Guyana. The dispute has yet to be settled. In 1902, the Second Venezuelan Crisis erupts. Venezuela defaults on its debts to Germany, Great Britain and Italy, who decide to take military action by establishing a naval blockade of the important Venezuelan ports. In 1903, the crisis is ended – again through mediation of the United States.
Economics and demography
Economically, during the colonial period, agriculture was developed. In the 19th century, the production of coffee and cocoa leads to a boom in the Venezuelan economy. Since oil was found in the early 20th century, Venezuela has become highly dependent on its oil exports. Recent developments show Venezuela to be in an economic crisis. The response of the government to increase government control has not been able to turn the tide.
The population consists of over 50% of Mestizos – peoples of mixed Amerindian and white offspring – and over 40% of whites – a result of an immigration wave in the first part of the 20th century bringing many Europeans to Venezuela. The indigenous people account for less than 3% of the population. The population is concentrated in urbanized areas in the north. Only 5% of the population live south of the Orinoco River.
Postal history Venezuela
The first stamps are issued in Venezuela in 1859 – inscribed Venezuela and showing the coat of arms. In 1863 and 1864, the changes, by which the Venezuelan states were created, are reflected in the inscription of an 1863 issue, with ‘Federacion Venezolana’ and, from 1864, the inscription ‘EE U.U. de Veneza‘‘Estados Unidos de Venezuela’ or ‘United States of Venezuela’. Due to shortages of postage stamps, from 1871 until 1911, revenue stamps issued to cover school fees – inscribed ‘Escuelas’ and later ‘Instruccion’ – were postally used. These issues are not inscribed with the country name and form a subject of study in their own right. Until the present day, Venezuela has issued stamps mainly with themes of national interest.
French offices were operated in Venezuela from 1866 until 1879, British offices from 1865 to 1880. These offices would handle international mail before Venezuela joined the UPU in 1880. International mail was also handled by private companies connecting Porto Cabello and La Guaira in Venezuela with St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies – currently part of the United States Virgin Islands. The concession was first granted in 1864 to the Cameron Macauly company using the steamer ‘Robert Todd’. Stamps were issued for use in St. Thomas and for use in Venezuela due to valuation differences in the currency. The concession was transferred to the Jesurun company in 1866. The Jesurun company first used the available issues from the Cameron Macauly company, then, from 1869, issued its own stamps. The concession ended in 1870.
Civil war issues
During the civil war and the blockade by the European powers between 1901 and 1903, a shortage of postage stamps in the city of Carupano led the postmaster to issue provisionals in 1902 and 1903. In some of the areas controlled by the rebelling forces, stamps were issued as follows: in the state of Guayana, the state of Maturin and the district of Marino, part of the state of Sucre. These issues are of the same design. Actual use has been very limited.
Local issues have appeared in the state of Zulia in 1891 – issued by the president of the state and inscribed ‘Correos del Estado Soberano del Zulia’. The stamps were used for three months – the validity of this issue is disputed. Further local issues have appeared in Ciudad Bolivar in 1892. During a period of civil war, large amounts of stamps were stolen. The president of the state of Bolivar – Guayana – issued overprinted stamps, the overprint serving as a control overprint and to give the available stamps a new face value. Both postage stamps and ‘Escuela’ stamps were overprinted. The issue was withdrawn shortly after its release by the central government.The special issues are listed differently by the worldwide catalogs. Please refer to the list of Stamp Issuing Entities for a summary of which issues are listed by which catalog.