Country Profiles: Latin America

Argentina

Argentina is the second-largest country in South America, encompassing an area of about 2.8 million sq. km (1.1 million sq. mi.). This corresponds to an area about the size of the eastern United States (east of the Mississippi River). Argentina has an elongated shape and ranges over 33 degrees of latitude, two-thirds of which borders directly on the Atlantic Ocean. To the west, Argentina borders on Chile, to the north, Bolivia and Paraguay. A small finger of Argentina in the northeast separates Paraguay and the southeastern segment of Brazil. Argentina borders on Uruguay to the east along the Uruguay River.

Due to its elongated profile, Argentina's climate varies widely from subtropical in the north to arid and subantarctic in the south. Argentina's western border includes portions of the Andes Mountains and foothills; however, the bulk of its terrain is lowland with vast grassy plains.

The bulk of Argentina's population is European in origin, mostly of Spanish and Italian descent. The most prevalent religion is Roman Catholicism (92%), with 2% Protestant, 2% Jewish, and the remainder other religions. Argentina's population is about 36 million people. The largest city is Buenos Aires, the capital, with a population of about 3 million people. The principal language is Spanish.

Argentina's principal trading partners are Brazil, the European Union, and the United States. Its major exports, amounting to approximately $26.2 billion, are grains, meats, oilseeds, and manufactured products. Argentina's imports ($30.4 billion) are machinery, vehicles and transport products, and chemicals.

Argentina is a republic with a president, vice president, and bicameral legislature as well as a federal judiciary. Its constitution was revised in 1994. There are several political parties.

Argentina is a fairly modern, developed country and thus has an extensive infrastructure. It has nearly 38,000 km of railways, most of it broad gauge but with extensive segments of standard and narrow gauge as well. It also has over 200,000 km of roads, over a quarter of which are paved. Argentina has nearly 17,000 km of pipelines for the transport of crude oil (4,090 km), petroleum products (2,900 km), and natural gas (9,918 km). There are an estimated 11,000 km of navigable waterways in Argentina, which also benefits from several ports and harbors. Argentina is estimated to have over 1,400 airports, but only about 10% of them have paved runways.

Bolivia

One of only two landlocked countries in South America, Bolivia is bordered to the north and east by Brazil, to the west by Peru and Chile, and to the south by Argentina and Paraguay. Bolivia has a varied terrain, ranging from rugged Andes Mountain terrain with a highland plateau to lowlands of the Amazon basin. Bolivia's area of 1.1 million sq. km (425,000 sq. mi.) is about the size of Texas and California combined. Because of the significant vertical configuration, Bolivia's climate varies from tropical and temperate in lower regions to cold and semiarid at high elevations.

Bolivia has a population of nearly 8 million people. The largest ethnic groups are Quechua and mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian), followed closely by Aymara. There is a small white minority. The main religion is Roman Catholicism, but there is a small Protestant following. Bolivia has three official languages: Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara.

Bolivia is a republic with three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. Its legislature is bicameral. The capital is La Paz with a population of about 700,000. Bolivia has little in the way of cash crops, relying on its natural resources (minerals and some tropical woodlands). Its major exports are metals and natural gas plus some jewelry and wood products. Bolivia's major imports are machinery and consumer products. Its major trading partners are the United States, Japan, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. Additionally, a significant percentage of Bolivia's exports go to the United Kingdom.

Since Bolivia is landlocked, it has no ports or harbors. However, it does have about 10,000 km of commercially navigable waterways and has free port privileges in the maritime ports of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay. Bolivia also has nearly 3,700 km of narrow gauge railways and over 52,000 km of road network. However, less than 3,000 km of the roads (5.5%) are paved. Additionally, Bolivia has nearly 3,800 km of pipelines to transport crude oil (1,800 km), petroleum products (580 km), and natural gas (1,495 km). Bolivia is estimated to have 1,153 airports, but only 11 (1%) have paved runways.

Brazil

With over 8.5 million sq. km of territory, Brazil is the largest country in South America and is only slightly smaller than the United States. It shares common boundaries with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador. Situated on and below the equator, Brazil's climate is mostly tropical. Due to its size, however, the climate in the south tends towards temperate. Brazil's terrain is mostly flat with plains and low tablelands. There are also lowlands and mountains in some areas.

Forests cover half of Brazil, with the largest rain forest in the world located in the Amazon Basin. Recent migrations into the Amazon and large-scale burning of forest areas have placed the international spotlight on Brazil.

Brazil has a population of nearly 170 million people. Over half the population is white (including many European extractions such as Portuguese, German, Italian, Spanish, and Polish). The next largest population group (38%) is mixed black and white. The most prevalent religion is Roman Catholicism (70–80%). The most populous city is Sao Paulo with 11 million people. One of the most well-known cities is Rio de Janeiro, whose population is about 6 million. The capital of Brazil is Brasilia, with a population of about 1.8 million.

With Portuguese as its official language, Brazil is one of the few countries in Latin America whose official language is not Spanish. However, Spanish is also a principal language, along with English and French.

Brazil is blessed with many resources and so exports many commodities ranging from iron ore to agricultural products (such as orange juice and coffee) to footwear and motor vehicle parts. Brazil imports crude oil, capital goods, and chemical products. Its main trading partners are the European Union, the United States, Argentina, and Japan.

Brazil is a federal republic whose legal system is based on the Roman code. Like most republics, it has three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial), with a bicameral legislature.

Brazil has a very varied transportation infrastructure. There are almost 27,000 km of railways, most of it narrow gauge. Almost 6,000 km is broad gauge, but less than 200 km is standard gauge. Brazil has nearly 2 million km of highways, but less than 10% is paved. With the Amazon River and other waterways, there are over 50,000 km of navigable waters in Brazil, as well as several ports and harbors (including Recife and Rio de Janeiro). Brazil also has nearly 7,000 km of pipelines divided among transport of crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas. Brazil is estimated to have 3,291 airports, but only slightly over 500 have paved runways. Of those, only five have runways approximately 10,000 feet in length or greater.

Chile

Longer and thinner than Argentina, Chile spans approximately two-thirds of the west coast of South America, from Peru on its northern border to the southern tip of the continent. Its total area is nearly 757,000 sq. km, nearly twice the size of California. To the east of Chile lie Bolivia and Argentina. At the southern tip, Chile touches both the South Atlantic and South Pacific Oceans. As a result, Chile has some strategic importance due to its proximity to international shipping lanes (e.g., the Straits of Magellan).

Chile has low coastal mountains and a fertile central valley, but the terrain is dominated by the Andes Mountains, which run the length of the country. This mountain range has several active volcanoes that have resulted in some devastating eruptions in recent years. Overall the climate is temperate (Mediterranean-like) with desert in the north and cool damp weather in the south. However, the Atacama Desert in the northern part of the country is one of the world's driest regions.

The official language of Chile is Spanish. Most (95%) of the population of nearly 15 million people is white or white-Amerindian; the remainder is mostly Amerindian. Approximately 89% of the population is Roman Catholic, and most of the remainder is Protestant. Chile's main exports are copper and other minerals, while its main imports are capital goods and spare parts. Chile's main trading partners are the European Union, the United States, Asia, and other countries in Latin America.

Chile is a republic with three branches of government. The president is the head of state. There is also a legislative branch with a bicameral legislature, and a judicial branch. The capital is Santiago, with a population of approximately 5.2 million people in the metropolitan area.

Chile has a fairly extensive transportation system. It has 6,782 km of railways of varying gauge, a significant portion of which (1,692 km) is electrified. It has nearly 80,000 km of roads, over 11,000 of which are paved. Chile has several ports and harbors as well as 725 km of waterways. It has pipelines for the transport of crude oil (755 km), petroleum products (785), and natural gas (320). Chile is estimated to have about 380 airports, 52 of which have paved runways.

Colombia

Located in the northwest portion of South America, Colombia is the connection point between South America and Central America. South of Colombia lie Ecuador and Peru, with Brazil and Venezuela to the east, and the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea to the west and north separated by Panama. Colombia has slightly over 1.1 million sq. km of area, making it slightly larger than Bolivia (nearly three times the size of Montana).

Like most South American countries, Colombia has a varied terrain ranging from low coastal plains to central highlands, with high Andean peaks giving way to lowlands again in the east. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur in the highlands. Colombia's location in the tropics influences the weather, especially in the lowlands.

Colombia has a population of about 38.5 million people, with mestizo as the largest ethnic group. Other significant ethnic populations include white and mulatto with some black, mixed black-Amerindian, and Amerindian representation. The official language is Spanish, and the main religion is Roman Catholicism (95%).

Bolivia is a republic with three branches of government. The dominant branch is the executive, headed by the president. There is a bicameral legislature as well as a judicial branch.

Known for its coffee, Colombia also exports petroleum, coal, bananas, and flowers. Its main imports are industrial equipment, transportation equipment, and consumer goods. Colombia's main trading partners are the United States, the European Community, Japan, and Venezuela.

Colombia has over 3,300 km of railways, but over one-third is not currently in use. It has approximately 107,000 km of roads, nearly 13,000 of which are paved. Additionally, Colombia has over 14,000 km of waterways navigable by riverboats. It also has several thousand km of pipelines for the transport of fossil fuels (crude oil 3,585 km; petroleum products 1,350 km; natural gas 830 km; natural gas liquids 125 km). Colombia has several ports and harbors and is estimated to have over 1,100 airports, 86 of which have paved runways.

Costa Rica

A small country in Middle America (also called Central America), Costa Rica has an area of about 51,000 sq. km, which makes it slightly smaller than West Virginia or about twice the size of Vermont. It is situated between Nicaragua and Panama and has coastlines on both the Northern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Its terrain has coastal plains that are separated by a rugged central mountain range. This gives Costa Rica a mild climate in the central highlands with tropical and subtropical conditions in the coastal areas. Costa Rica suffers occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along the Atlantic coast, and frequent flooding of lowlands at the onset of the rainy season. Costa Rica also has active volcanoes.

Costa Rica's population of about 3.6 million people is mostly (96%) white (including mestizo) with some black, Amerindian, and Chinese. The primary religion is Roman Catholicism (95%). The capital city, San Jose, has a metropolitan area population of about 1.2 million. The official language is Spanish, but English is spoken around the port city of Limon.

Costa Rica's government is a democratic republic with three branches of government: an executive branch headed by the president, a legislative branch with a unicameral legislature, and a judicial branch.

Costa Rica exports bananas, coffees, textiles, and sugar and imports raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, and petroleum. Its main trading partners are the United States, Germany, and other countries in Europe and Latin America.

Costa Rica has about 950 km of railways, all of which were slated for privatization in 1997. It also has over 35,000 km of highways, of which about 6,000 km are paved. It has almost 200 km of pipelines for the transport of petroleum products. Costa Rica has several ports and approximately 158 airports. Only about 27 of the airports have paved runways.

Ecuador

Located in the northwest corner of South America, Ecuador is bordered to the north by Colombia, to the east and south by Peru, and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. The equator passes through the northern portion of the country. With an area of about 283,560 sq. km, its size is roughly equivalent to Colorado or slightly smaller than Nevada. A portion of the Andes passes through the center of the country, with jungle to the east and a rich agricultural coastal plain to the west. Due to its terrain and location, Ecuador's climate ranges from mild year-round in the high mountain valleys to hot and humid in coastal and Amazonian jungle lowlands. Cotopaxi in the Andes is the highest active volcano in world.

Spanish is the official language for the population of about 12.3 million people. Slightly more than half of the population is mixed Amerindian and Spanish (mestizo), with significant percentages of Amerindian (25%), Spanish (10%), and black (10%). The main religion is Roman Catholicism.

The government of Ecuador has three branches: executive, legislative (unicameral legislature), and judicial. The head of state is the president. The capital city is Quito, with a population of about 1.5 million.

Ecuador's main exports are bananas, petroleum, and seafood, and its imports are transport equipment, consumer goods, vehicles, and machinery. Its main trading partners are the United States, the European Union, Latin America, and Asia.

Ecuador's transportation system includes approximately 965 km of railways, 1,500 km of waterways, as well as several ports and harbors. Ecuador also has over 2,000 km of pipelines for the transport of crude oil (800 km) and petroleum products (1,358 km). Of the estimated 183 airports, 52 have paved runways. Its road network is over 43,000 km, but less than one-eighth (5,750 km) of the roads are paved.

El Salvador

El Salvador is a small country (almost 21,500 sq. km) in Middle America (Central America) about the size of Massachusetts. It is bordered on the south by the Northern Pacific Ocean, to the east and north by Honduras, and to the north and west by Guatemala. It is the smallest Central American country and the only one without a coastline on the Caribbean Sea. It has a southern coastal belt, central valleys and plateaus, and northern mountains. El Salvador's climate is semitropical with distinct wet and dry seasons. El Salvador is sometimes referred to as the Land of Volcanoes. Besides volcanic activity, El Salvador also experiences earthquakes.

El Salvador's population of nearly 6 million is mostly mestizo (mixed Amerindian and Spanish) (94%) with some Amerindian (5%) and white. San Salvador, the capital, has a population of about 1.4 million people. The main religion is Roman Catholicism (75%). There are estimated to be about 1 million Protestant evangelicals in the country. The primary language is Spanish, although Nashua is spoken among some of the Amerindians.

El Salvador is a republic with three branches of government. The president, who is also the chief of state, heads the executive branch. There is a unicameral legislature and a judicial branch (supreme court).

El Salvador's main exports are coffee, sugar, shrimp, and textiles. It imports raw materials, consumer goods, capital goods, and fuels. Its main trading partners are the United States and other Latin American countries.

El Salvador has a limited infrastructure. Of the 602 km of narrow gauge railways, some sections are abandoned or unusable. It has only one partially navigable river and a few ports and harbors. El Salvador does have nearly 10,000 km of highways, of which approximately one-fifth (20%) is paved. It is estimated to have 88 airports, but only four of them have paved runways.

Guatemala

Guatemala, a country in Middle America, borders both the North Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. On the North Pacific side it also borders Mexico and El Salvador, while on the Caribbean Sea it lies between Belize and Honduras. It covers an area of about 108,700 sq. km, about the size of Tennessee. Its terrain is mostly mountainous, with small coastal plains. Its climate is tropical (hot and humid) in the lowlands but cooler in the highlands. Like other countries in the region, it has significant volcanic activity, earthquakes, and is often battered by tropical storms on the Caribbean coast. There are no natural harbors on its Pacific coast.

Guatemala has a population of about 12 million people. Slightly more than half of the population (56%) is mestizo, and most of the remainder is Amerindian. The main language is Spanish, but about 23 Amerindian languages are also spoken among the population. Religions practiced are Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and traditional Mayan.

Guatemala is a republic with three branches of government. The president heads the executive branch. Like many other Latin American countries, there is a unicameral legislature as well as a judicial branch. The capital city is Guatemala with a population of about 2 million people.

Guatemala's main exports are coffee, sugar, bananas, cardamom, and petroleum. It imports fuel and petroleum products, machinery, grain, fertilizers, and motor vehicles. Guatemala's main trading partner is the United States. It also has significant trade with other Latin American countries (including the Central American Common Market, CACM) as well as Germany and Japan.

Guatemala has almost 900 km of narrow gauge railways. It has over 13,000 km of roads, approximately one-quarter of which are paved. It has 275 km of pipelines for the transport of crude oil. Its navigable waterways vary from 260 km during periods of low water to nearly 1,000 km during the high-water season, along with several ports and harbors. Although it has many airports for its size (467 estimated), only 12 of them have paved runways.

Honduras

Honduras, a country in Middle America about the size of Tennessee or Louisiana (112,100 sq. km or 43,270 sq. mi.) borders both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. It borders Guatemala and El Salvador as well as Nicaragua. Its terrain is mostly mountainous with narrow coastal plains. Its climate is subtropical in the lowlands and temperate in the mountains. Honduras suffers from frequent but usually mild earthquakes as well as hurricanes and flooding along the Caribbean coast.

Honduras has a population of about 6 million people, approximately 90% of which are mestizo (mixed indigenous and European). The main language is Spanish, but some Amerindian dialects are also spoken. The population is almost all Roman Catholic (97%) with a small Protestant minority. The capital city is Tegucigalpa with a population of about 1 million people in its metropolitan area.

Honduras exports bananas, coffee, shrimp, lobster, minerals, meat, and lumber mostly to the United States but also to European and other markets. It imports machinery and transport equipment, industrial raw materials, chemical products, manufactured goods, fuel and oil, and foodstuffs, again mostly from the United States but also from other countries in Latin America.

Honduras has nearly 600 km of railways. There are over 15,000 km of roads, but only about 20% are paved. Honduras has several ports and harbors as well as about 122 airports. Only twelve of the airports have paved runways.

Mexico

The northernmost and second-largest country in Latin America, Mexico is the fourth-largest country in the western hemisphere. It has a strategic location on the southern border of the United States (one of only two countries with which the U.S. shares a border). With an area of nearly two million sq. km (761,600 sq. mi.), it is nearly three times the size of Texas. Mexico's southern border abuts Guatemala and Belize while to the east lay the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico and to the west is the Northern Pacific Ocean. Mexico's terrain is varied, ranging from low coastal plains to high, rugged mountains. Mexico has desert and high plateaus as well. Like its terrain, Mexico's environment is varied. Its climate ranges from tropical to desert. Mexico also experiences earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and volcanic activity.

Mexico was the United States' third-ranked trading partner in 1997, accounting for 10% of U.S. trade. In 1998, exports to Mexico surpassed U.S. exports to Japan. The United States was Mexico's predominant trading partner, accounting for 88% of Mexican exports and 78% of Mexican imports. The chief U.S. exports to Mexico were motor vehicle parts, electronic equipment, and agricultural products; the top imports from Mexico included petroleum, motor vehicles, and electronic equipment. The United States in 1996 was the source of 60% of all direct foreign investment in Mexico.

With a population of about 95 million people, Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second-most-populous country in Latin America after Portuguese-speaking Brazil. The most prevalent religion is Roman Catholicism (89%), with a notable Protestant population (6%). The official language is Spanish, although some Mayan and other indigenous dialects are spoken. Sixty percent of the population is mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish), while Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian peoples number about 30%. The remaining 10% is mostly white. The capital is Mexico City with a population of about 21 million people.

Mexico is a republic with three branches of government. The head of state is the president (executive branch). There is a bicameral legislature and a supreme court.

Mexico has a significant transportation infrastructure. There are over 20,000 km of railways, 252,000 km of roads (40% paved), and 2,900 km of navigable waterways. Additionally, Mexico has over 50,000 km of pipelines for transport of crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas, and chemicals. Mexico has many ports and harbors as well as over 1,800 airports (231 with paved runways).

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is located in Middle America between Costa Rica and Honduras with coastlines on both the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. Consisting of about 130,000 sq. km (50,446 sq. mi.), it is slightly larger than New York. On the Atlantic side, it has extensive coastal plains that rise to volcanic mountains to the west. There is a very narrow coastal plain on the Pacific side. Nicaragua has a tropical climate, which becomes more temperate with elevation. Because of its location, Nicaragua experiences several environmental hazards including devastating earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic activity.

Nicaragua's population of about 4.5 million people is mostly (69%) mestizo (mixed European and indigenous). Whites comprise 17% of the population, while blacks (Jamaican in origin) make up 9% and the remainder is of indigenous background. About 85% of the population is Roman Catholic. The official language is Spanish, but English and indigenous languages are also spoken. Managua, the capital, has a population of about 1 million people.

Nicaragua is a republic with three branches of government. The head of the executive branch is the president. There is also a unicameral legislature and a supreme court. The Supreme Court members are elected by the National Assembly and serve a limited term.

Nicaragua exports coffee, seafood, meat, sugar, gold, and bananas and imports consumer goods, machinery and equipment, and petroleum products. Its main trading partners are the United States and other countries of Central America.

Nicaragua currently has no railways and only about 1,800 km of paved roads. It has several ports, Bluefields being the main one. Of the estimated 185 airports, only 13 have paved runways.

Panama

Panama is strategically situated on the southeastern end of the land bridge (Isthmus) that joins North and South America. It is about 77,381 sq. km (29,762 sq. mi.) in area, slightly smaller than South Carolina. Besides its strategic location between the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, it borders Colombia to the southeast and Costa Rica to the west. Panama's interior is mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected upland plains. Its coastal areas consist largely of plains and rolling hills. Panama's climate is mostly tropical with a prolonged rainy season (January to May), during which the rainfall averages nearly one inch daily.

Panama's population of about 2.8 million people is mostly mestizo (70%), with a West Indian segment of about 14% and smaller concentrations of whites and Amerindians. Most (85%) of the population is Roman Catholic, and most of the remainder is Protestant. Panama City is the capital and has a population of about 828,000.

Panama exports bananas, shrimp, and coffee. It imports capital goods, oil, and foodstuffs. Its principal trading partners are the United States, the European Union, Central America, and Caribbean countries.

Panama has about 355 km of railways. Its road network includes about 11,000 km of roads, about one-third of which are paved. It has 800 km of waterways, most of which are only navigable by shallow-draft vessels. The most significant waterway is the 82-km-long Panama Canal, linking the Caribbean Sea with the North Pacific Ocean. Panama offers a "flag of convenience" registry and consequently has an extensive merchant fleet. Panama's registry of over 4,300 ships is mostly made up of ships from 76 countries. There are estimated to be 109 airports in Panama, 40 of which have paved runways.

Paraguay

One of only two landlocked countries in the western hemisphere, Paraguay is northeast of Argentina and also shares borders with Brazil and Bolivia. Its area of about 406,750 sq. km (157,047 sq. mi.) makes it slightly smaller than California. Except for some wooded hill country, Paraguay is mostly lowlands with marshes to the east of the Paraguay River and grassy plains and tropical forests to the west. Its climate is subtropical with substantial rainfall but becomes semiarid in the far west.

Paraguay's population of over 5 million people is mostly (95%) mestizo (mixed Spanish and Amerindian descent). Approximately 90% of the population is Roman Catholic. The main language is Spanish. The capital city of Asuncion has a population of over 500,000 people. Paraguay is a republic with three branches of government: executive (headed by the president), bicameral legislature, and Supreme Court.

Paraguay's main exports are cotton, soybeans, timber, and vegetable oils and it imports capital goods, consumer goods, foodstuffs, raw materials, and fuels. Its main trading partner is Brazil but it also exports a substantial percentage of its goods to the Netherlands and imports a substantial percentage from the United States.

Paraguay has just under a thousand kilometers of railways, almost half of which is privately owned. It has about 29,000 km of roads, only 10% of which is paved. It also has over 3,000 km of waterways and almost a thousand airports (only ten of which have paved runways).

Peru

Peru is in western South America bordering the South Pacific Ocean as well as Chile and Ecuador. Its area of over 1.2 million sq. km makes it about three times as big as California or slightly smaller than Alaska. Peru's terrain is characterized by western coastal plains, rugged central mountains (Andes), and eastern lowlands with tropical forests. The coastal area has a mild and arid climate, while the eastern lowlands are tropically warm and humid. The climate in the Andes ranges from temperate to frigid. Peru also experiences earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, landslides, and mild volcanic activity. Although landlocked, Peru shares control of Lago Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake, with Bolivia.

Peru's population, estimated at over 26 million people, is mostly Indian (45%), Mestizo (37%), and white. Approximately 90% of the population is Roman Catholic. Peru has two official languages, Spanish and Quechua. The capital city is Lima. The Lima/Callao metropolitan area has a population of about 7 million people.

Peru's main exports are metals such as copper, zinc, and lead, and crude petroleum. It imports machinery, transportation equipment, and foodstuffs. Its main trading partner is the United States but it also trades with other countries in Latin America, the European Union, and Asia.

Peru's infrastructure includes over 2,000 km of railways and over 72,000 km of roads. Only about 10% of the roads are paved, however. It also has 8,600 navigable tributaries of the Amazon River as well as over 200 km of navigable water in Lago Titicaca. Peru has over 240 airports, with about one-sixth having paved runways.

Uruguay

Located in southern South America, Uruguay is situated between Argentina and Brazil, bordering on the South Atlantic Ocean. Its area of about 176,000 sq. km (68,000 sq. mi.) makes it slightly smaller than the state of Oklahoma. Its terrain is largely agricultural, made up of plains and low hills. It has a warm temperate climate; freezing temperatures are extremely rare.

Most of Uruguay's population of nearly 3.3 million people is of European descent (88%). Other ethnic groups include mestizo (8%) and African descent (4%). About 66% of the population is Roman Catholic, with the remainder professing Jewish, Protestant, other religions, or no religion at all. The main languages are Spanish, Portuguese, and Brazilero (a Spanish-Portuguese mix). The largest city is Montevideo, the capital, with a population of about 1.4 million people.

Uruguay is a republic with three branches of government. The president is the head of the executive branch. There is also a bicameral legislature and a judicial branch.

Uruguay exports wool and textile goods, beef and other animal products, as well as fish and rice. It imports machinery and equipment, vehicles, and other products. Its main trading partners are Brazil, Argentina, the United States, Germany, and Italy.

Uruguay has nearly 3,000 km of railways as well as several ports and harbors. There are approximately 64 airports, less than one-fourth of which have paved runways.

Venezuela

North of Brazil between Colombia and Guyana, Venezuela borders on the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is on the major sea and air routes between the United States and South America. Venezuela's terrain varies from coastal lowlands to central highlands and mountains. Its climate ranges from tropical to milder or more temperate, depending on elevation. With an area of about 912,000 sq. km (352,143 sq. mi.), Venezuela is slightly larger than twice the size of California (or about the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined).

Venezuela is rich in petroleum and other mineral resources. It is a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The petroleum industry accounts for a major segment of Venezuela's economy and is its chief export. Other exports include iron and steel, coffee, aluminum, and cocoa. It imports machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, chemicals, and foodstuffs. Its major trading partners are the United States, Japan, Germany, Colombia, Brazil, and Italy. Venezuela is the United States' largest supplier of foreign oil.

Venezuela's population of about 22.4 million people is mostly mestizo (67%), with large white and black populations of Spanish, Italian, Arab, Portuguese, German, and African background. Indigenous people (Amerindians) make up about 2% of the population. The official language is Spanish, although the Amerindians speak many native dialects in the remote interior. The population is heavily Roman Catholic (96%). The largest city is Caracas, the capital, with a population of about 2.8 million.

Venezuela is a republic with three branches of government. The president heads the executive branch. There is a bicameral legislature and a judicial branch.

Venezuela relies on several means of transportation. There are almost 600 km of railways as well as 33,000 km of paved and 51,000 km of unpaved roads. It has several ports and harbors. Rio Orinoco and Lake Maracaibo accept oceangoing vessels. Venezuela has over 10,000 km of pipelines for moving crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products. There are 377 airports in Venezuela, about a third of which have paved runways.