Venezuela - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Venezuela has the distinction of having the most paved highways of any country in Latin America, 60 percent of its 94,929 kilometers (58,989 miles) of roads. Most of these highways are located in the northern part of the country, where population density is greatest. The southern half of the country is more heavily dependent on aircraft or river travel for transport. Almost 98 percent of goods are moved by trucks over the nation's highways. Although the capital city of Caracas has a subway system, the rest of the country is served by a very small railway system of 584 kilometers (363 miles). The railway system is used to transport freight, and the government is seeking ways to expand this system.

Venezuela has 11 international and 36 domestic airports, with the major one in Caracas processing 90 percent of international flights, 84 percent of air cargo, and 40 percent of domestic passengers. Many of the country's airports are not high quality facilities. Venezuela has 13 ports and harbors, but 80 percent of bulk cargo is handled by 3 ports on the Caribbean Sea: Maracaibo, La Guaira, and Puerto Cabello. The facilities at La Guaira were significantly damaged by the December 1999 mudslides.

Venezuela produced 70.39 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in 1998, of which 65.463 billion were consumed internally, giving the country one of the highest electricity consumption levels in South America. Some 90 percent of households have electricity. Three-fourths of Venezuela's power comes from hydroelectric plants on its rivers. With reserves of 143 trillion cubic feet, Venezuela is believed to have the fifth largest reserves of natural gas in the world, 11 percent of which is consumed daily to generate power. Since 1998, the government has been privatizing its power-production system.

After the oil industry, the telecommunications industry is the fastest growing industry in Venezuela. The government recently ended its monopoly on fixed-line telephone service. CANTV, the national telephone company, has 2.5 million customers, compared with 3.5 million in the cellular telephone market. Venezuela had 11 Internet service providers in 1999, servicing 650,000 users, a number that is expected to double in 2000. In 1997, there were 10.75 million radios and 4.1 million televisions in Venezuela.

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