Venezuela was one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 the others being Colombia and Ecuador. For most of the first half of the 20th century, Venezuela was ruled by military strongmen, who promoted the oil industry, but in 1958 a democratic process was implemented. Since 1998 the country has been ruled by President Hugo Chavez.
Venezuela is home to the world's highest waterfall, Angel Falls and the second longest river in South America, the Orinoco. It also has the longest coastline to the Caribbean sea. Venezuela is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and also has vast untapped reserves of natural gas. Ecologically, Venezuela is considered among the 20 Megadiverse countries of the planet; more than 40% of its national territory is covered by protected areas.