Patron:
The Hon Sir Gerard Brennan AC KBE
former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
Conference Committee:
Suri Ratnapala, Professor of Public Law, UQ
Thomas John, Chair, European Focus Group, LCA
Nicholas Aroney, Reader in Law, UQ
Hendryk Flaegel, International Law Section, LCA


Venezuela

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The Federal War ended in 1863 with the signing of the Treaty of Coche by both the centralist government of the time and the Federal Forces. The United States of Venezuela were subsequently incorporated under a "Federation of Sovereign States" upon principles borrowed from the Articles of Confederation of the United States of America. In this Federation, each State had a "President" of its own that controlled almost every issue, even the creation of "State Armies," while the Federal Army was required to obtain presidential permission to enter any given state. However, more than 140 years later, the original system has gradually evolved into a quasi-centralist form of government. While the 1999 Constitution still defines Venezuela as a Federal Republic, it abolished the Senate, transferred competences of the States to the Federal Government and granted the President of the Republic vast powers to intervene in the States and Municipalities. Venezuela was colonized by Spain in 1522 despite resistance from indigenous peoples. It became one of the first Spanish American colonies to declare independence (in 1811), but did not securely establish independence until 1821 (as a department of the federal republic of Gran Colombia, gaining f ll independence in 1830). During the 19th century Venezuela suffered political turmoil and dictatorship, and it was dominated by regional caudillos (military strongmen) well into the 20th century. The country has intermittently had democratic governments between 1945 and the present day; like most countries of Latin America, it has suffered some coups and military dictatorships. Economic shocks in the 1980s and 1990s led to a political crisis causing up to 3,000 deaths in the Caracazo riots of 1989, two attempted coups in 1992, and the impeachment of President Carlos Andres Perez for embezzlement of public funds in 1993. A collapse in confidence in the existing parties saw the 1998 election of former career officer Hugo Chavez, and the launch of the Bolivarian Revolution, beginning with a 1999 Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution of Venezuela. Venezuela is a federal presidential republic consisting of 23 states, the Capital District (covering Caracas), and Federal Dependencies (covering Venezuela's offshore islands). Venezuela claims all Guyanese territory west of the Essequibo River; this 159,500 square kilometres (61,583 sq mi) tract was dubbed Guayana Esequiba or the Zona en Reclamacion (the "zone being reclaimed")

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