Venezuela is a federal republic with a congressional system,
and has been a democracy since 1958. The President, elected by direct vote for
a non-renewable term of five years, is head of state and appoints a council of
The National Congress is bicameral (2 houses) and consists of a Senate and
a Chamber of Deputies. The two chambers generally act independently of each other,
but hold joint sessions when necessary. The Senate has 50 seats, to which 2 members
are directly elected from each state and the federal district, with others to
represent minorities. Former, democratically elected presidents are members of
the Senate for life. The Chamber of Deputies is directly elected and currently
has 205 seats.
Members of both houses are elected at the same time as the President and also
serve 5-year terms. Voting is compulsory for everyone over the age of 18.
The Supreme Court of Justice heads Venezuela’s judicial system. Judges and
magistrates are elected by the chambers of congress.
Privately owned newspapers, magazines, radio and television enjoy freedom of
expression but generally exercise self-censorship when criticizing the government.
Most Venezuelans have access to television broadcasts, and the circulation of
national daily newspapers is one of the highest in South America.