Head of state and government Hugo Chávez Frías
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 28.6 million
Life expectancy 73.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 24/19 per 1,000
Adult literacy 95.2 per cent
Attacks, harassment and intimidation of those critical of government policies, including journalists and human rights defenders, were widespread. Unfounded charges were brought against those who opposed government policies. More special courts and prosecutor's offices specializing in gender-based violence were established. However, the implementation of the 2007 law to eradicate violence against women remained slow.
In February, the limit on presidential terms was removed, following a referendum.
Social unrest increased; there were nearly twice as many protests between January and August as in the whole of 2008. The protests were sparked by issues such as discontent over labour rights and basic services, including a new education law opposed by the private education sector and the political opposition.
The National Assembly debated the possibility of legal reforms to regulate the use and possession of small arms, including harsher sentences for possession of weapons. According to the National Assembly's Security and Defence Commission, there were between nine and 15 million illegal firearms in circulation.
Reforms to the armed forces in October included provisions allowing the creation of militias.
Ten police officers charged with criminal offences in the context of the 2002 attempted coup against President Chávez were sentenced to up to 30 years' imprisonment in April. They were convicted of homicide and grievous bodily harm against anti-coup protesters amid concerns that not all of those who committed acts of violence in the context of the attempted coup had been brought to justice.
Human rights defenders
Human rights defenders and victims of human rights violations and their relatives seeking justice and redress continued to be attacked, threatened and harassed by the security forces.