Venezuela Table of Contents
Venezuela possessed a relatively well-integrated transportation network that far exceeded that of most its South American neighbors. Roads were the primary means of transportation for both passengers and cargo, and the country had the highest percentage of paved highways in Latin America. The nation's extensive road network covered more than 76,600 kilometers in 1988, 34 percent of which was paved and 32 percent gravel. The remaining 34 percent was dirt roads. The southern part of the country lacked a road network and was generally not accessible by land. Bountiful oil windfalls in the 1970s allowed the country to construct modern multilane highways to serve its growing automobile population, which exceeded 2.3 million officially registered vehicles by 1986. The major international highways included the Colombian-Caribbean Highway on the north coast, which connected with the Pan-American Highway in Colombia via San Cristóbal and provided access to Brazil via Santa Elena. There was, however, no direct highway access to neighboring Guyana (see fig. 7). Approximately 55 percent of the capital's streets were paved, and other large cities displayed similar ratios. In addition to the comparatively high volume of automobile traffic, numerous bus services also transported 11.5 million passengers in 1988.
The country's railroad system was not nearly as extensive as its road network, and many industrialists complained that the rail system was insufficient to support the burgeoning mining industry. Through 1990 railroads spanned only 400 kilometers, carrying passengers and freight over two major routes. The main passenger route stretched from Barquisimeto to Puerto Cabello. This route also passed through the petrochemical complex at Morón. In 1988 the nation's trains, excluding the Caracas subway, carried 240,000 passengers. The second major rail line ran through the heavy mining area south of Ciudad Guayana.
Caracas also boasted an extremely modern subway system that first opened in 1982. Installed by a French company and managed under private service contracts, the Caracas Metro (C.A. Metro de Caracas--Cametro) was clean, punctual, safe, and financially sound in the late 1980s. Many analysts pointed to the fact that Cametro's employees were not public servants, and therefore not subject to the political patronage system, as the main reason for its success relative to other Venezuelan public-service companies. Construction of the Cametro system continued through 1990, and new lines were expected to open.
Water transport on lakes, rivers, and seas was fairly well developed. The National Port Institute (Instituto Nacional de Puertos--INP) managed the nation's nine major commercial ports, and various government entities administered scores of other ports. INP's ports, located on the various types of waterways, were traditionally the central shipping facilities. The growth of heavy industry in the 1980s permitted CVG-supervised ports, the largest being Puerto Ordaz, to challenge INP because of their control of heavy minerals exports. Nevertheless, INP ports still handled 90 percent of general cargo and almost all containerized traffic. The port of La Guaira, located in metropolitan Caracas, was the most important INP port, followed by Puerto Cabello and Maracaibo. Other ports on the Caribbean coast and on Lago de Maracaibo were typically specialized ports that served a particular industry.
Venezuelan ports--and INP ports in particular--suffered from extremely high costs, which were closely tied to the strength of the country's longshoremen's unions. A lack of modernization and expansion after the 1970s also contributed to low efficiency. In 1990 the government contemplated increasing the role of the private sector in port management to expand port development, a measure that was likely to spark conflicts with organized labor. The Venezuelan Shipping Company and dozens of private companies provided merchant marine services, including oil tanker service worldwide.
Air transportation was commonplace in Venezuela, which flew nearly 15.7 million total passengers in 1988. Eleven international airports served the nation, along with 36 domestic airports and an estimated 290 private airstrips. The Maiquetía International Airport, located twenty-one kilometers outside the Federal District of Caracas, was the principal international airport, handling about 40 percent of all passengers, 84 percent of air cargo, and as much as 90 percent of all international flights. The other leading international airports were located in Barcelona and Maracaibo. Venezuela International Airways (Venezolana Internacional de Aviación S.A.--VIASA), the government's international carrier, provided regular flights to the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, and South America. VIASA maintained a relatively good reputation and recorded annual profits through 1990. Two domestic carriers, the state-owned Venezuelan Airmail Line (Línea Aeropostal Venezolana--LAV) and the private Avensa corporation, furnished local air service. Beginning in the late 1980s, Avensa also flew a few international routes as well. Numerous air taxis flew to more remote areas. Twenty-seven international airlines flew regularly to Venezuela.
Data as of December 1990
Venezuela Table of Contents