POPULATION28,047,938 (July 2012 est.)
GDP PER CAPITA$12,700 (2011 est.)
RELIGIONSnominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%
ALSO IN LATIN AMERICAArgentina
AT THE CENTER
Venezuela is a predominantly Catholic country with a complex history of church-state relations. Catholicism arrived with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century but, despite holding a virtual monopoly on religion, the Venezuelan church remained weak until the 1900s. In the mid-20th century, it became embroiled in a series of conflicts with the expanding secular state, particularly during the brief period of democratic government known as the trienio (1945-8). Following the second transition to democracy in 1957, relations between church and state remained largely amicable until the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998. The Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, written during Chavez's presidency, guarantees religious freedom and the autonomy of religious bodies. These clauses, however, have not prevented numerous clashes between political and religious leaders over issues ranging from education to presidential term limits.