Several Indian tribes inhabited Venezuela before any European settlers arrived.Christopher Columbus was thefirst European explorer to reach Venezuela in 1498.During the 1500s, Spaniards would come to collect pearls that could be found around the Venezuelan islands.By the 1700s, Venezuela had become one of Spain's poorest South American colonies.A private trading company expanded the colony's economy.However, the colonists resented the company's rigid control over trade.In the early 1800s, Spain's South American colonies began a fight for independence.Venezuela was thefirst Spanish colony to demand independence from Spain.They declared their freedom on July 5, 1811; however, they were not truly independent until 1821.After a small period of being a segment of a country called Gran Colombia, Venezuela drafted a separate constitution in 1830.Jose Antonio Paez became thefirst president of a new Venezuelan republic in 1831.
After their independence, Venezuela had many periods of civil unrest.There were civil wars and political instability; but after an establishment of a roads and communication systems, foreign firms began to invest in the country.Profits gained from the oil business would pay off huge national debts, and help to build a stronger army.In 1935, opposition to the dictatorship increased among Venezuelans.A political group, the Accion Domocratica, seized power of the country in 1945.Military leaders ruled until 1950, when Marcos Perez Jimenez became the dictator.Revolt once again broke out in 1958, and he was forced into exile.Later that year, voters chose theirfirst democratically elected president.Venezuela has become one of the wealthiest and most rapidly changing countries on the South American continent.In the early 1980s, oil prices dropped around the world, and this caused Venezuela's economy to suffer greatly, because oil was the co


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