22 Mart 2008 Cumartesi

Krabi the Paradise

Krabi the Paradise

» Thailand Travel Adventures A sea lovers paradise on the Andaman coast, this province boasts unpolluted natural wonders, both land and under sea. White sandy beaches stretching in sharp contrast with the blue sea, Krabi offers a wide range of challenging activies from scuba diving, kayaking to hiking it never stops luring tourist to this special coastal province. Many of the world's most nicest sea destinations and islands are nearby such as Kho Rok, Kho Lanta, Maya Bay and not to forget Phi Phi Island. krabi is one of the most beautiful and famous destinations in Thailand and known for its breathtaking seaside and beaches, but also for ecotourims and trekking makes Krabi a beautiful place.

Getting There by Bus
If your planning to travel by bus there are VIP, first class, second class and standard buses available from Monchit Bangkok's Southern bus terminal. Approximately » travel time is about 13 - 14 hours depends which bus you take.

Getting There by Train
There is no direct train from Bangkok to Krabi. Travelers may take a train from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong train station that can be easily reached by taxi. The train will lead you to Surathani and from there you can reach Krabi by bus or taxi.

Getting There by Air
Traveling by airplane is the most fastest and convenient way to travel when your holiday. There are direct flights available from Bangkok to Krabi hourly, flight takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Tickets are cheap and cost around 100 Euro check with your travel agency as there are maybe cheaper flights available depends on the season.

Permission to reprint this article is granted if the article is reproduced in its entirety, without modification, including all information and hyperlinks. » Thailand Hotel

25 Şubat 2008 Pazartesi



Flag of Zimbabwe

President: Robert Mugabe (1980)

Current government officials

Land area: 149,293 sq mi (386,669 sq km); total area: 150,804 sq mi (390,580 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 12,311,143 (growth rate: 0.6%); birth rate: 27.7/1000; infant mortality rate: 51.1/1000; life expectancy: 39.8; density per sq mi: 82

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Harare, 2,331,400 (metro. area), 1,919,700 (city proper)

Other large cities: Bulawayo, 965,000; Chitungwiza, 411,700

Monetary unit: Zimbabwean dollar

Languages: English (official), Shona, Ndebele (Sindebele), numerous minor tribal dialects

Ethnicity/race: African 98% (Shona 82%, Ndebele 14%, other 2%), mixed and Asian 1%, white less than 1%

Religions: syncretic (part Christian, part indigenous beliefs) 50%, Christian 25%, indigenous beliefs 24%, Muslim and other 1%

Literacy rate: 91% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2006 est.): $25.36 billion; per capita $ $2,100. Real growth rate: –4%. Inflation: 976.4% official data; private sector estimates are much higher (yearend 2006 est.). Unemployment: 80%. Arable land: 8%. Agriculture: corn, cotton, tobacco, wheat, coffee, sugarcane, peanuts; sheep, goats, pigs. Labor force: 3.96 million; agriculture 66%, services 24%, industry 10% (1996). Industries: mining (coal, gold, platinum, copper, nickel, tin, clay, numerous metallic and nonmetallic ores), steel; wood products, cement, chemicals, fertilizer, clothing and footwear, foodstuffs, beverages. Natural resources: coal, chromium ore, asbestos, gold, nickel, copper, iron ore, vanadium, lithium, tin, platinum group metals. Exports: $1.766 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): cotton, tobacco, gold, ferroalloys, textiles/clothing. Imports: $2.055 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): machinery and transport equipment, other manufactures, chemicals, fuels. Major trading partners: South Africa, Switzerland, UK, China, Germany, Botswana (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 331,700 (2006); mobile cellular: 832,500 (2006). Radio broadcast stations: AM 7, FM 20 (plus 17 repeater stations), shortwave 1 (1998). Radios: 1.14 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 16 (1997). Televisions: 370,000 (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 6 (2000). Internet users: 1 million (2005).

Transportation: Railways: total: 3,077 km (2002). Highways: total: 97,440 km ; paved: 18,514 km ; unpaved: 78,926 km (2002 est.). Waterways: the Mazoe and Zambezi rivers are used for transporting chrome ore from Harare to Mozambique. Ports and harbors: Binga, Kariba. Airports: 430 (2002) .

International disputes: dormant dispute remains where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe boundaries converge.

Major sources and definitions


Zimbabwe, a landlocked country in south-central Africa, is slightly smaller than California. It is bordered by Botswana on the west, Zambia on the north, Mozambique on the east, and South Africa on the south.


Parliamentary democracy.


The remains of early humans, dating back 500,000 years, have been discovered in present-day Zimbabwe. The land's earliest settlers, the Khoisan, date back to 200 B.C. After a period of Bantu domination, the Shona people ruled, followed by the Nguni and Zulu peoples. By the mid-19th century the descendants of the Nguni and Zulu, the Ndebele, had established a powerful warrior kingdom.

The first British explorers, colonists, and missionaries arrived in the 1850s, and the massive influx of foreigners led to the establishment of the territory Rhodesia, named after Cecil Rhodes of the British South Africa Company. In 1923, European settlers voted to become the self-governing British colony of Southern Rhodesia. After a brief federation with Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland (now Malawi) in the post–World War II period, Southern Rhodesia (also known as Rhodesia) chose to remain a colony when its two partners voted for independence in 1963.

On Nov. 11, 1965, the conservative white-minority government of Rhodesia declared its independence from Britain. The country resisted the demands of black Africans, and Prime Minister Ian Smith withstood British pressure, economic sanctions, and guerrilla attacks in his effort to uphold white supremacy. On March 1, 1970, Rhodesia formally proclaimed itself a republic. Heightened guerrilla war and a withdrawal of South African military aid in 1976 marked the beginning of the collapse of Smith's 11 years of resistance.

Black nationalist movements were led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa of the African National Congress and Ndabaningi Sithole, who were moderates, and guerrilla leaders Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Joshua Nkomo of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), who advocated revolution.

On March 3, 1978, Smith, Muzorewa, Sithole, and Chief Jeremiah Chirau signed an agreement to transfer power to the black majority by Dec. 31, 1978. They formed an executive council, with chairmanship rotating but with Smith retaining the title of prime minister. Blacks were named to each cabinet ministry, serving as coministers with the whites already holding these posts. African nations and rebel leaders immediately denounced the action, but Western governments were more reserved, although none granted recognition to the new regime.

The white minority finally consented to hold multiracial elections in 1980, and Robert Mugabe won a landslide victory. The country achieved independence on April 17, 1980, under the name Zimbabwe. Mugabe eventually established a one-party socialist state, but by 1990 he had instituted multiparty elections and in 1991 deleted all references to Marxism-Leninism and scientific socialism from the constitution. Parliamentary elections in April 1995 gave Mugabe's party a stunning victory with 63 of the 65 contested seats, and in 1996 Mugabe won another six-year term as president.

In 2000, veterans of Zimbabwe's war for independence in the 1970s began squatting on land owned by white farmers in an effort to reclaim land taken under British colonization—one-third of Zimbabwe's arable land was owned by 4,000 whites. In Aug. 2002, Mugabe ordered all white commercial farmers to leave their land without compensation. Mugabe's support for the squatters and his repressive rule has led to foreign sanctions against Zimbabwe. Once heralded as a champion of the anticolonial movement, Mugabe is now viewed by much of the international community as an authoritarian ruler responsible for egregious human rights abuses and for running the economy of his country into the ground.

In March 2002, Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations. That month Mugabe was reelected president for another six years in a blatantly rigged election whose results were enforced by the president's militia. In 2003, inflation hit 300%, the country faced severe food shortages, and the farming system had been destroyed. In 2004, the IMF estimated that the country had grown one-third poorer in the last five years.

Parliamentary elections in March 2005 were judged by international monitors to be egregiously flawed. In April, Zimbabwe was reelected to the UN Commission on Human Rights, outraging numerous countries and human rights groups. In mid-2005, Zimbabwe demolished its urban slums and shantytowns, leaving 700,000 people homeless in an operation called “Drive Out Trash.” In 2006, the government launched “Operation Roundup,” which drove 10,000 homeless people out of the capital.

Since 2000, Zimbabwe has experienced precipitous hyperinflation. By 2007, inflation had reached nearly 7,000%, by far the world's highest. Unemployment ranges from 70% to 80%. According to the World Health Organization, Zimbabwe has the world's lowest life expectancy. The opposition, clearly emboldened by the economic collapse and the lack of available necessities in Zimbabwe, attempted to hold an antigovernment rally in March 2007. Police arrested and beat dozens of activists, including Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change. Mugabe banned political meetings and forbid political opponents from leaving the country.

Representatives from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and the governing ZANU-PF party met in South Africa in September 2007 and agreed to constitutional changes that will allow presidential and parliamentary elections to be held simultaneously in 2008. The opposition, however, said the changes did little to dilute Mugabe's hold on power.



Status: Part of United Kingdom

First Secretary: Rhodri Morgan (2000)

Land area: 8,019 sq mi (20,768 sq km)

Population (1993 est.): 2,906,500

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Cardiff, 676,400 (metro. area), 280,800 (city proper)

Monetary unit: British pound sterling (£)

Languages: English, Welsh

Religions: Calvinistic Methodist, Church of Wales (disestablished—Anglican), Roman Catholic

Major sources and definitions


Wales lies west of England and is separated from England by the Cambrian Mountains. It is bordered on the northwest, west, and south by the Irish Sea and on the northeast and east by England. Wales is generally hilly; the Snowdon range in the northern part culminates in Mount Snowdon (3,560 ft, 1,085 m), Wales's highest peak.


Until 1999, Wales was ruled solely by the UK government and a secretary of state. In the referendum of Sept. 18, 1997, Welsh citizens voted to establish a national assembly. Wales will remain part of the UK, and the secretary of state for Wales and members of parliament from Welsh constituencies will continue to have seats in parliament. Unlike Scotland, which in 1999 voted to have its own parliament, the national assembly will not be able to legislate and raise taxes. Wales will, however, control most of its local affairs. The Welsh national assembly officially opened on July 1, 1999.


The prehistoric peoples of Wales left behind megaliths and other impressive monuments. They were followed by settlements of Celts in the region. The Romans occupied the region from the 1st to the 5th century A.D. Thereafter Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invaded the British island, but they left Wales virtually untouched. Beginning in the 8th century, the various Welsh tribes fought with their Anglo-Saxon neighbors to the east, but the Welsh were able to thwart attempted invasions. After William the Conqueror subdued England in 1066, however, his Norman armies marched into Wales in 1093 and occupied portions of it. By 1282, the English conquest of Wales was complete, and in 1284, the Statute of Rhuddlan formalized England's sovereignty over Wales. In 1301, King Edward I gave his son, who later became Edward II, the title Prince of Wales, a gesture meant to indicate the unity and relationship between the two lands. With the exception of Edward II, all subsequent British monarchs have given this title to their eldest son.

In 1400, the Welsh prince Owen Glendower led a revolt against the English, expelling them from much of Wales in just four years. By 1410, however, his rebellion was crushed. In 1485, Henry VII became king of England. A Welshman and the first in the Tudor line, Henry's reign, and those of subsequent Tudors, made English rule more palatable to the Welsh. His son, King Henry VIII, joined England and Wales under the Act of Union in 1536.

The Industrial Revolution transformed Wales and threatened the traditional livelihood of farmers and shepherds. In the 20th century, the economy of Wales was based primarily on coal production. After World War I, coal prices dropped; this, coupled with the Great Depression, fueled high unemployment rates and economic uncertainty.

In recent years, a resurgence of the Welsh language and culture has demonstrated a stronger national identity among the Welsh, and politically the country moved toward greater self-government (devolution). In 1999, with the strong support of Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, Wales opened the Welsh national assembly, the first real self-government Wales has had in more than 600 years.



Flag of Yemen

National name: Al-Jumhuriyah al-Yamaniyah

President: Ali Abdullah Saleh (1990)

Prime Minister: Ali Muhammad Mujawar (2007)

Current government officials

Total area: 203,849 sq mi (527,969 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 22,211,743 (growth rate: 3.5%); birth rate: 42.7/1000; infant mortality rate: 58.3/1000; life expectancy: 62.5; density per sq mi: 109

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Sanaá, 1,778,900

Other large cities: Aden, 568,700; Hodiedah, 426,100; Tiaz, 317,600

Monetary unit: Rial

Language: Arabic

Ethnicity/race: predominantly Arab; but also Afro-Arab, South Asians, Europeans

Religions: Islam (including Sunni and Shiite), small numbers of Jewish, Christian, and Hindu

Literacy rate: 50% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2006 est.): $20.63 billion; per capita $1000. Real growth rate: 2.6%. Inflation: 14.8%. Unemployment: 35% (2003 est.). Arable land: 3%. Agriculture: grain, fruits, vegetables, pulses, qat, coffee, cotton; dairy products, livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, camels), poultry; fish. Labor force: 5.759 million; most people are employed in agriculture and herding; services, construction, industry, and commerce account for less than one-fourth of the labor force. Industries: crude oil production and petroleum refining; small-scale production of cotton textiles and leather goods; food processing; handicrafts; small aluminum products factory; cement; commercial ship repair. Natural resources: petroleum, fish, rock salt, marble, small deposits of coal, gold, lead, nickel, copper, fertile soil in west. Exports: $8.214 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): crude oil, coffee, dried and salted fish. Imports: $5.042 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): food and live animals, machinery and equipment, chemicals. Major trading partners: Thailand, China, Singapore, UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, India, U.S., Kuwait (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 968,400 (2006); mobile cellular: 2.075 million. Radio broadcast stations: AM 6, FM 1, shortwave 2 (1998). Radios: 1.05 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 7 (plus several low-power repeaters) (1997). Televisions: 470,000 (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 171 (2006). Internet users: 220,000 (2005).

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 71,300 km ; paved: 6,200 km; unpaved: 65,100 km (2005 est.). Ports and harbors: Aden, Al Hudaydah, Al Mukalla, As Salif, Ras Issa, Mocha, Nishtun. Airports: 44 (2002).

International disputes: Eritrea protests Yemeni fishing around the Hanish islands awarded to Eritrea by the ICJ in 1999; nomadic groups in border region with Saudi Arabia resist demarcation of boundary.

Major sources and definitions


Formerly divided into two nations, the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen and the Yemen Arab Republic, the Republic of Yemen occupies the southwest tip of the Arabian Peninsula on the Red Sea opposite Ethiopia and extends along the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula on the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Saudi Arabia is to the north and Oman is to the east. The country is about the size of France. A 700-mile (1,130-km) narrow coastal plain in the south gives way to a mountainous region and then a plateau area.


Parliamentary republic.


The history of Yemen dates back to the Minaean (1200–650 B.C.) and Sabaean (750–115 B.C.) kingdoms. Ancient Yemen (centered around the port of Aden) engaged in the lucrative myrrh and frankincense trade. It was invaded by the Romans (1st century A.D.) as well as the Ethiopians and Persians (6th century A.D.). In A.D. 628 it converted to Islam and in the 10th century came under the control of the Rassite dynasty of the Zaidi sect, which remained involved in North Yemeni politics until 1962. The Ottoman Turks nominally occupied the area from 1538 to the decline of their empire in 1918.

The northern portion of Yemen was ruled by imams until a pro-Egyptian military coup took place in 1962. The junta proclaimed the Yemen Arab Republic, and after a civil war in which Egypt's Nasser and the USSR supported the revolutionaries and King Saud of Saudi Arabia and King Hussein of Jordan supported the royalists, the royalists were finally defeated in mid-1969.

The southern port of Aden, strategically located at the opening of the Red Sea, was colonized by Britain in 1839, and by 1937, with an expansion of its territory, it was known as the Aden Protectorate. In the 1960s the Nationalist Liberation Front (NLF) fought against British rule, which led to the establishment of the People's Republic of Southern Yemen on Nov. 30, 1967. In 1979, under strong Soviet influence, the country became the only Marxist state in the Arab world.

The Republic of Yemen was established on May 22, 1990, when pro-Western Yemen and the Marxist Yemen Arab Republic merged after 300 years of separation to form the new nation. The poverty and decline in Soviet economic support in the south was an important incentive for the merger. The new president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was elected by the parliaments of both countries.

Differences over power sharing and the pace of integration between the north and the south came to a head in 1994, resulting in a civil war. The north's superior forces quickly overwhelmed the south in May and early June despite the south's brief declaration of succession. The victorious north presented a reconciliation plan providing for a general amnesty and pledges to protect political democracy.

The president's party, the General People's Congress, won an enormous victory in the April 1997 parliamentary elections, the first since the civil war. In 1998–1999, a militant Islamic group, the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, kidnapped several groups of Western tourists, which led to the deaths of several during a poorly orchestrated rescue attempt. The group's leader, Zein al-Abidine al-Mihdar, threatened to continue attacks on tourists and government officials. The goal of the militants is to overthrow the government and turn Yemen into an Islamic state.

On Oct. 12, 2000, 17 Americans died and 37 were wounded when suicide bombers attacked the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole, which was refueling in Aden, Yemen. The U.S. had numerous clashes with Yemeni authorities during the investigation of the terrorist act. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., however, Yemen increased its cooperation with the U.S. and assisted in antiterrorism measures. In Oct. 2002, a French tanker, the Limburg, was also the victim of a terrorist attack off the coast of Yemen. Ten suspects of the Cole bombing escaped from prison in April 2003; seven, including the two suspected masterminds of the attack, were recaptured in 2004. Fifteen militants were convicted in Aug. 2004 on a variety of charges, including the attack on the Limburg. In September, two key al-Qaeda operatives involved in the Cole bombing were sentenced to death.

In presidential elections in Sept. 2006, incumbent Ali Abdullah Saleh was reelected with 77% of the vote. In March 2007, President Saleh appointed Ali Muhammad Mujawar prime minister and asked him to form a cabinet.



Flag of Vietnam

National name: Công Hòa Xa Hôi Chú Nghia Viêt Nam

President: Nguyen Minh Triet (2006)

Prime Minister: Nguyen Tan Dung (2006)

Current government officials

Land area: 125,622 sq mi (325,361 sq km); total area: 127,244 sq mi (329,560 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 85,262,356 (growth rate: 1.0%); birth rate: 16.6/1000; infant mortality rate: 24.4/1000; life expectancy: 71.1; density per sq mi: 679

Capital (2003 est.): Hanoi, 2,543,700 (metro. area), 1,396,500 (city proper)

Largest cities: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), 5,894,100 (metro. area), 3,415,300 (city proper); Haiphong, 581,600; Da Nang, 452,700; Hué 271,900; Nha Trang, 270,100; Qui Nho'n, 199,700

Monetary unit: Dong

Languages: Vietnamese (official); English (increasingly favored as a second language); some French, Chinese, Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)

Ethnicity/race: Kinh (Viet) 86.2%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.7%, Muong 1.5%, Khome 1.4%, Hoa 1.1%, Nun 1.1%, Hmong 1%, others 4.1% (1999)

Religions: Buddhist 9%, Catholic 7%, Hoa Hao 2%, Cao Dai 1%, Protestant, Islam, none 81%

Literacy rate: 94% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2006 est.): $262.8 billion; per capita $3,100. Real growth rate: 8.2%. Inflation: 7.5%. Unemployment: 2%. Arable land: 20%. Agriculture: paddy rice, coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, pepper, soybeans, cashews, sugar cane, peanuts, bananas; poultry; fish, seafood. Labor force: 44.58 million; agriculture 20.1%, industry 41.8%, services 38.1% (July 2006). Industries: food processing, garments, shoes, machine-building; mining, coal, steel; cement, chemical fertilizer, glass, tires, oil, paper. Natural resources: phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate, offshore oil and gas deposits, forests, hydropower. Exports: $39.92 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garments, shoes. Imports: $39.16 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel products, raw cotton, grain, cement, motorcycles. Major trading partners: U.S., Japan, China, Australia, Germany, Singapore, UK, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 15.845 million (2005); mobile cellular: 9.593 million (2005). Radio broadcast stations: AM 65, FM 7, shortwave 29 (1999). Radios: 8.2 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: at least 7 (plus 13 repeaters) (1998). Televisions: 3.57 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 12,114 (2006). Internet users: 13.1 million (2006).

Transportation: Railways: total: 2,600 km (2006). Highways: total: 222,179 km km; paved: 42,167 km; unpaved: 180,012 km (2004 est.). Waterways: 17,702 km navigable; more than 5,149 km navigable at all times by vessels up to 1.8 m draft. Ports and harbors: Cam Ranh, Da Nang, Haiphong, Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Long, Quy Nhon, Nha Trang, Vinh, Vung Tau. Airports: 32 (2006).

International disputes: demarcation of the land boundary with China continues, but maritime boundary and joint fishing zone agreement remains unratified; Cambodia and Laos protest Vietnamese squatters and armed encroachments along border; China occupies Paracel Islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan; involved in a complex dispute over Spratly Islands with China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and possibly Brunei; claimants in November 2002 signed the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” a mechanism to ease tension but which fell short of a legally binding “code of conduct.”

Major sources and definitions


Vietnam occupies the eastern and southern part of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia, with the South China Sea along its entire coast. China is to the north and Laos and Cambodia are to the west. Long and narrow on a north-south axis, Vietnam is about twice the size of Arizona. The Mekong River delta lies in the south.


Communist state.


The Vietnamese are descendants of nomadic Mongols from China and migrants from Indonesia. According to mythology, the first ruler of Vietnam was Hung Vuong, who founded the nation in 2879 B.C. China ruled the nation then known as Nam Viet as a vassal state from 111 B.C. until the 15th century, an era of nationalistic expansion, when Cambodians were pushed out of the southern area of what is now Vietnam.

A century later, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to enter the area. France established its influence early in the 19th century, and within 80 years it conquered the three regions into which the country was then divided—Cochin-China in the south, Annam in the central region, and Tonkin in the north.

France first unified Vietnam in 1887, when a single governor-generalship was created, followed by the first physical links between north and south—a rail and road system. Even at the beginning of World War II, however, there were internal differences among the three regions. Japan took over military bases in Vietnam in 1940, and a pro-Vichy French administration remained until 1945. Veteran Communist leader Ho Chi Minh organized an independence movement known as the Vietminh to exploit the confusion surrounding France's weakened influence in the region. At the end of the war, Ho's followers seized Hanoi and declared a short-lived republic, which ended with the arrival of French forces in 1946.

Paris proposed a unified government within the French Union under the former Annamite emperor, Bao Dai. Cochin-China and Annam accepted the proposal, and Bao Dai was proclaimed emperor of all Vietnam in 1949. Ho and the Vietminh withheld support, and the revolution in China gave them the outside help needed for a war of resistance against French and Vietnamese troops armed largely by a United States worried about cold war Communist expansion.

A bitter defeat at Dien Bien Phu in northwest Vietnam on May 5, 1954, broke the French military campaign and resulted in the division of Vietnam. In the new South, Ngo Dinh Diem, prime minister under Bao Dai, deposed the monarch in 1955 and made himself president. Diem used strong U.S. backing to create an authoritarian regime that suppressed all opposition but could not eradicate the Northern-supplied Communist Viet Cong.

Skirmishing grew into a full-scale war, with escalating U.S. involvement. A military coup, U.S.-inspired in the view of many, ousted Diem on Nov. 1, 1963, and a kaleidoscope of military governments followed. The most savage fighting of the war occurred in early 1968 during the Vietnamese New Year, known as Tet. Although the so-called Tet Offensive ended in a military defeat for the North, its psychological impact changed the course of the war.

U.S. bombing and an invasion of Cambodia in the summer of 1970—an effort to destroy Viet Cong bases in the neighboring state—marked the end of major U.S. participation in the fighting. Most American ground troops were withdrawn from combat by mid-1971 when the U.S. conducted heavy bombing raids on the Ho Chi Minh Trail—a crucial North Vietnamese supply line. In 1972, secret peace negotiations led by Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger took place, and a peace settlement was signed in Paris on Jan. 27, 1973.

By April 9, 1975, Hanoi's troops marched within 40 miles of Saigon, the South's capital. South Vietnam's president Thieu resigned on April 21 and fled. Gen. Duong Van Minh, the new president, surrendered Saigon on April 30, ending a war that claimed the lives of 1.3 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans.

In 1977, border clashes between Vietnam and Cambodia intensified, as well as accusations by its former ally Beijing that Chinese residents of Vietnam were being subjected to persecution. Beijing cut off all aid and withdrew 800 technicians.

Hanoi was also preoccupied with a continuing war in Cambodia, where 60,000 Vietnamese troops had invaded and overthrown the country's Communist leader Pol Pot and his pro-Chinese regime. In early 1979, Vietnam was conducting a two-front war: defending its northern border against a Chinese invasion and supporting its army in Cambodia, which was still fighting Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrillas. Hanoi's Marxist policies combined with the destruction of the country's infrastructure during the decades of fighting devastated Vietnam's economy. However, it started to pick up in 1986 under doi moi (economic renovation), an effort at limited privatization. Vietnamese troops began limited withdrawals from Laos and Cambodia in 1988, and Vietnam supported the Cambodian peace agreement signed in Oct. 1991.

The U.S. lifted a Vietnamese trade embargo in Feb. 1994 that had been in place since U.S. involvement in the war. Full diplomatic relations were announced between the two countries in July 1995. In April 1997, a pact was signed with the U.S. concerning repayment of the $146 million wartime debt incurred by the South Vietnamese government, and the following year the nation began a drive to eliminate inefficient bureaucrats and streamline the approval process for direct foreign investment. Efforts of reform-minded officials toward political and economic change have been thwarted by Vietnam's ruling Communist Party. In April 2001, however, the progressive Nong Duc Manh was appointed general secretary of the ruling Communist Party, succeeding Le Kha Phieu. Even with a reformer at the helm of the party, change has been slow and cautious.

In Nov. 2001, Vietnam's national assembly approved a trade agreement that opened U.S. markets to Vietnam's goods and services. Tariffs on Vietnam's products dropped to about 4% from rates as high as 40%. Vietnam in return opened its state markets to foreign competition.

The government highlighted its efforts to crack down on corruption and crime with the June 2003 conviction of notorious criminal syndicate boss Truong Van Cam, known as Nam Cam. He was sentenced to death, along with 155 other defendants, and executed in June 2004.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai visited the United States in June 2005, becoming the first Vietnamese leader to do so since the Vietnam War ended. He met with President Bush and several business leaders, including Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. The U.S. is Vietnam's largest trading partner, buying about $7 billion in Vietnamese goods each year.

A corruption scandal rocked Vietnam in April 2006. Transport minister Dao Dinh Binh resigned amid allegations that members of his staff embezzled millions from the country and used the funds to bet on soccer games. His deputy Nguyen Viet Tien was arrested for his role in the scandal.

President Tran Duc Luong and Prime Minister Phan Van Khai resigned in June 2006, making way for two younger leaders, President Nguyen Minh Triet and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Luong and Khai had led Vietnam since 1997 and were instrumental in Vietnam's two-decades-long transition to a market economy, called doi moi, or renovation.

Vietnam became the 150th member of the World Trade Organization in January 2007, after waiting 12 years to join the group.



Flag of Venezuela

National name: República Bolivariana de Venezuela

President: Hugo Chavez (1999)

Current government officials

Land area: 340,560 sq mi (882,050 sq km); total area: 352,144 sq mi (912,050 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 26,084,662 (growth rate: 1.4%); birth rate: 18.5/1000; infant mortality rate: 20.9/1000; life expectancy: 74.8; density per sq mile: 77

Capital (2003 est.): Caracas, 3,517,300 (metro. area), 1,741,400 (city proper)

Largest cities: Maracaibo, 1,889,000 (metro. area), 1,854,300 (city proper); Valencia, 1,515,400; Barquisimeto, 948,900

Monetary unit: Bolivar

Languages: Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects

Ethnicity/race: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, indigenous people

Religions: Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%

Literacy rate: 93% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2006 est.): $186.3 billion; per capita $7,200. Real growth rate: 10.3%. Inflation: 15.8%. Unemployment: 8.9%. Arable land: 3%. Agriculture: corn, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, bananas, vegetables, coffee; beef, pork, milk, eggs; fish. Labor force: 12.5 million; services 64%, industry 23%, agriculture 13% (1997 est.). Industries: petroleum, construction materials, food processing, textiles; iron ore mining, steel, aluminum; motor vehicle assembly. Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, other minerals, hydropower, diamonds. Exports: $69.23 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): petroleum, bauxite and aluminum, steel, chemicals, agricultural products, basic manufactures. Imports: $28.81 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): raw materials, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, construction materials. Major trading partners: U.S., Netherlands Antilles, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 4.216 million (2006); mobile cellular: 12.496 million (2005). Radio broadcast stations: AM 201, FM n.a. (20 in Caracas), shortwave 11 (1998). Radios: 10.75 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 66 (plus 45 repeaters) (1997). Televisions: 4.1 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 51,968 (2006). Internet users: 3.04 million (2005).

Transportation: Railways: total: 682 km (2002). Highways: total: 96,155 km; paved: 32,308 km; unpaved: 63,847 km (1999 est.). Waterways: 7,100 km; Rio Orinoco and Lago de Maracaibo accept oceangoing vessels. Ports and harbors: Amuay, Bajo Grande, El Tablazo, La Guaira, La Salina, Maracaibo, Matanzas, Palua, Puerto Cabello, Puerto la Cruz, Puerto Ordaz, Puerto Sucre, Punta Cardon. Airports: 375 (2006).

International disputes: claims all of Guyana west of the Essequibo River; maritime boundary dispute with Colombia in the Gulf of Venezuela and the Caribbean Sea; US, France and the Netherlands recognize Venezuela's claim to give full effect to Aves Island, which creates a Venezuelan EEZ/continental shelf extending over a large portion of the Caribbean Sea; Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines protest the claim and other states' recognition of it.

Major sources and definitions


Venezuela, a third larger than Texas, occupies most of the northern coast of South America on the Caribbean Sea. It is bordered by Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south. Mountain systems break Venezuela into four distinct areas: (1) the Maracaibo lowlands; (2) the mountainous region in the north and northwest; (3) the Orinoco basin, with the llanos (vast grass-covered plains) on its northern border and great forest areas in the south and southeast; and (4) the Guiana Highlands, south of the Orinoco, accounting for nearly half the national territory.


Federal republic.


When Columbus explored Venezuela on his third voyage in 1498, the area was inhabited by Arawak, Carib, and Chibcha Indians. A subsequent Spanish explorer gave the country its name, meaning “Little Venice.” Caracas was founded in 1567. Simón Bolívar, who led the liberation from Spain of much of the continent, was born in Caracas in 1783. With Bolívar taking part, Venezuela was one of the first South American colonies to revolt in 1810, winning independence in 1821. Federated at first with Colombia and Ecuador as the Republic of Greater Colombia, Venezuela became a republic in 1830. A period of unstable dictatorships followed. Antonio Guzman Blanco governed from 1870 to 1888, developing an infrastructure, expanding agriculture, and welcoming foreign investment.

Gen. Juan Vicente Gómez was dictator from 1908 to 1935, when Venezuela became a major oil exporter. A military junta ruled after his death. Leftist Dr. Rómulo Betancourt and the Democratic Action Party won a majority of seats in a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution in 1946. A well-known writer, Rómulo Gallegos, candidate of Betancourt's party, became Venezuela's first democratically elected president in 1947. Within eight months, Gallegos was overthrown by a military-backed coup led by Marcos Peréz Jiménez, who was ousted himself in 1958. Since 1959, Venezuela has been one of the most stable democracies in Latin America. Betancourt served from 1959–1964, while Rafael Caldera Rodríguez, president from 1969 to 1974, legalized the Communist Party and established diplomatic relations with Moscow.

Venezuela benefited from the oil boom of the early 1970s. In 1974, President Carlos Andrés Pérez took office, and in 1976 Venezuela nationalized foreign-owned oil and steel companies, offering compensation. Luis Herrera Campíns became president in 1978. Declining world oil prices sent Venezuela's economy into a tailspin, increasing the country's foreign debt. Pérez was reelected to a nonconsecutive term in 1988 and launched an unpopular austerity program. Military officers staged two unsuccessful coup attempts in 1992, while the following year Congress impeached Pérez on corruption charges. President Rafael Caldera Rodríguez was elected in Dec. 1993 to face the 1994 collapse of half of the country's banking sector, falling oil prices, foreign debt repayment, and inflation. In 1997, the government announced an expansion of gold and diamond mining to reduce reliance on oil.

Leftist president Hugo Chavez took office in 1999, pledging political and economic reforms to give the poor a greater share of the country's oil wealth. A constituent assembly was formed to rewrite the constitution in July 1999, followed by the creation of a constitutional assembly made up of Chavez's allies that replaced the democratically elected Congress. Chavez's assumption of greater power prompted charges that he is establishing a left-wing dictatorship.

Chavez was reelected to a six-year term in July 2000. Troops were called in to quell serious protests over the election in several cities. In 2000 Chavez visited other OPEC countries, becoming the first foreign head of state to visit Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. He is close to President Fidel Castro of Cuba, which receives Venezuelan oil at reduced prices.

In Dec. 2001, business and labor organizations held a work stoppage to protest Chavez's increasingly authoritarian government. In April 2002, tensions reached a boiling point as workers reduced oil production to protest Chavez's policies. Following a massive anti-Chavez demonstration during which 12 people were killed, a coalition of business and military leaders forced Chavez from power. But international criticism of the coup, especially in Latin America, and an outpouring of support from the president's followers returned Chavez to power just two days later. After the coup, Chavez remained highly popular among the poor, despite the desperate state of the economy. Venezuelan labor unions, business organizations, the media, and a good part of the military remained substantially less enchanted.

Beginning in early Dec. 2002, a general strike was called by business and labor leaders. By Jan. 2003 it had virtually brought the economy, including the oil industry, to a halt. Strike leaders pledged to continue until Chavez resigned or agreed to early elections. But in Feb. 2003, after nine weeks, the strikers conceded defeat. In Aug. 2003, a petition with 3.2 million signatures was delivered to the country's election commission, demanding a recall referendum on Chavez. The Chavez government challenged the referendum process rigorously, and petitions submitted in Sept. 2003 and Feb. 2004 were rejected as invalid. The electoral board finally accepted a petition in June 2004 and scheduled the referendum for August 15. Chavez, who had been shoring up his standing with the Venezuelan poor during the delays, won the referendum with an overwhelming 58% of the vote. The opposition alleged fraud, but international observers confirmed that there had been no irregularities. Chavez's hand was clearly strengthened, and by the spring of 2005, his popularity rating reached 70%, due in large part to his social spending programs. In Dec. 2005 parliamentary elections, Chávez's Fifth Republic Movement won 114 of 167 seats, and the remaining seats were won by his allies. The opposition boycotted the election, maintaining they could not trust the pro-Chavez National Electoral Council. President Chávez won reelection in Dec. 2006 with 63% of the vote.

In early 2007, Chávez took significant steps to further consolidate his power and move Venezuela closer to becoming a socialist state. In January, he announced the nationalization of major energy and telecommunications companies. Days later, the National Assembly voted to allow Chávez to rule by decree for 18 months. In May, Chávez shut down the main opposition television station, RCTV, which has been critical of the government. The National Assembly voted in August to abolish presidential term limits.

In November 2007, the Colombian army captured FARC rebels who were carrying videos, photographs, and letters of about 15 hostages, some who have been held in jungle camps by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for nearly ten years. The Marxist-inspired FARC—the largest rebel group in Latin America—has been waging guerilla wars against the Colombian government for 40 years. Hostages included three American military contractors and Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian presidential candidate. Also in November, Uribe withdrew his support of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez’s attempts to negotiate with the FARC, escalating tension between the two countries. Chávez subsequently withdrew the Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia.

On December 3, 2007, a referendum that was widely expected to pass was rejected by voters, 51% to 49%, following weeks of uncharacteristic public protests and campaigning against the package put forward by Chávez. The proposed 69 amendments to the constitution included abolishment of presidential term limits, removal of the Central Bank's autonomy, which would have given Chávez new power to build a socialist economy, and a few that enjoyed wide support, including reducing the work day to six hours and offering pensions to street vendors and housewives.

“I will not withdraw even one comma of this proposal, this proposal is still alive," Chávez said. "For me, this is not a defeat."

Chavez instituted a time change on December 9, 2007, which put Venezuela a half-hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time. The government claimed it was a health measure to improve the lives of Venezuelans by exposing them to more sunlight.

Months of negotiations between Chavez and FARC rebels over the release of three hostages came to an end on December 31, 2007, when the FARC refused to hand them over, saying the promised security conditions had not been met. The failed mission is Chavez's second defeat in the last month after the loss of his referendum. On January 10, 2008, however, FARC rebels freed two hostages, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonz�lez de Perdomo, in Guaviare, in southern Colombia. Rojas, a Colombian politician captured in 2002, and Perdomo, a Colombian law-maker captured in 2001, were escorted out of the jungle by several guerillas. The release of the hostages was a triumph for Chavez, who coordinated the operation.

Vatican City

Vatican City (Holy See)

Flag of Vatican City

Ruler: Benedict XVI (2005)

Current government officials

Land area: 0.17 sq mi (0.44 sq km)

Population (July 2003 est.): 911; density per sq mi: 5,362

Monetary unit: Euro

Languages: Italian, Latin, French, various other languages

Ethnicity/race: Italian, Swiss, other

Religion: Roman Catholic.

Labor force: dignitaries, priests, nuns, guards, and 3,000 lay workers who live outside the Vatican.

Budget (2001): Revenues: $173.5 million; expenditures: $176.6 million, including capital expenditures.

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: n.a.; mobile cellular: n.a. Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 4, shortwave 2 (1998). Radios: n.a. Television broadcast stations: 1 (1996). Televisions: n.a.

Transportation: Railways: total: 0.86 km; note: connects to Italy's network at Rome's Saint Peter's station (2001). Highways: none; all city streets. Ports and harbors: none. Airports: none. Heliports: 1 (2002).

International disputes: none.

Major sources and definitions


The Vatican City State is situated on the Vatican hill, on the right bank of the Tiber River, within the city of Rome.


The pope has full legal, executive, and judicial powers. Executive power over the area is in the hands of a commission of cardinals appointed by the pope. The College of Cardinals is the pope's chief advisory body, and upon his death the cardinals elect his successor for life.


The Vatican City State, sovereign and independent, is the survivor of the papal states that in 1859 comprised an area of some 17,000 sq mi (44,030 sq km). During the struggle for Italian unification, from 1860 to 1870, most of this area became part of Italy. By an Italian law of May 13, 1871, the temporal power of the pope was abrogated, and the territory of the papacy was confined to the Vatican and Lateran palaces and the villa of Castel Gandolfo. The popes consistently refused to recognize this arrangement. The Lateran Treaty of Feb. 11, 1929, between the Vatican and the kingdom of Italy, established the autonomy of the Holy See.

The first session of Ecumenical Council Vatican II was opened by John XXIII on Oct. 11, 1962, to plan and set policies for the modernization of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI continued the council, presiding over the last three sessions. Vatican II, as it is called, revolutionized some of the church's practices. Power was decentralized, giving bishops a larger role, the liturgy was vernacularized, and laymen were given a larger part in church affairs.

On Aug. 26, 1978, Cardinal Albino Luciani was chosen by the College of Cardinals to succeed Paul VI, who had died of a heart attack on Aug. 6. The new pope took the name John Paul I. Only 34 days after his election, John Paul I died of a heart attack, ending the shortest reign in 373 years. On Oct. 16, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, 58, was chosen pope and took the name John Paul II. Pope John Paul II became the first Polish pope and the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century.

On May 13, 1981, a Turkish terrorist shot the pope in St. Peter's Square, the first assassination attempt against the pontiff in modern times. The pope later met and forgave him. On June 3, 1985, the Vatican and Italy ratified a new church-state treaty, known as a concordat, replacing the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The new accord affirmed the independence of Vatican City but ended a number of privileges that the Catholic Church had in Italy, including its status as the state religion.

On April 2, 2005, John Paul died. He was the third-longest reigning pope (26 years). A champion of the poor, he is credited by many with hastening the fall of Communism in Poland and other eastern bloc countries. His vitality and charisma energized the world's 1 billion Catholics. His rule was characterized by conservatism regarding church doctrine, particularly on issues such as birth control, women's roles in the church, and homosexuality. The pope also remained circumspect about the U.S. church's sexual abuse scandals in 2002. He was the Vatican's greatest ambassador, traveling to 129 countries. John Paul canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people, which was believed to be more than all his predecessors combined.

On April 19, German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was named the new pope. Pope Benedict XVI is known as an accomplished scholar of theology and is considered an archconservative in his religious views. He served as Pope John Paul II's closest associate and is expected to continue the policy of a “strong Rome.” In Sept. 2006, Pope Benedict XVI apologized after angering Muslims around the world by quoting medieval passages that referred to Islam as “evil and inhuman.”

United States of America

United States

Flag of United States

President: George W. Bush (2001)

Vice President: Richard B. Cheney (2001)

Land area: 3,539,225 sq mi (9,166,601 sq km); total area: 3,718,691 sq mi (9,631,420 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 301,139,947 (growth rate: 0.9%); birth rate: 14.2/1000; infant mortality rate: 6.4/1000; life expectancy: 78.0; density per sq mi: 85

Capital (2003 est.): Washington, DC, 570,898

Largest cities (2003 est.): New York, 18,498,000 (metro area), 8,085,742 (city proper); Los Angeles, 12,146,000 (metro area), 3,819,951 (city proper); Chicago, 8,711,000 (metro area), 2,869,121 (city proper); Houston, 2,009,960; Philadelphia, 1,479,339; Phoenix, 1,388,416; San Diego, 1,226,753; San Antonio, 1,214,725; Dallas, 1,208,318; Detroit, 911,402

Monetary unit: dollar

Languages: English 82%, Spanish 11% (2000)

Ethnicity/race: White: 211,460,626 (75.1%); Black: 34,658,190 (12.3%); Asian: 10,242,998 (3.6%); American Indian and Alaska Native: 2,475,956 (0.9%); Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander: 398,835 (0.1%); other race: 15,359,073 (5.5%); Hispanic origin:1 35,305,818 (12.5%)

Religions: Protestant 52%, Roman Catholic 24%, Mormon 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 1%, none 10% (2002)

Literacy rate: 97% (1979 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $12.41 trillion; per capita $42,000. Real growth rate: 3.5%. Inflation: 3.2%. Unemployment: 5.1%. Arable land: 18%. Agriculture: wheat, corn, other grains, fruits, vegetables, cotton; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish; forest products. Labor force: 149.3 million (includes unemployed); farming, forestry, and fishing 0.7%, manufacturing, extraction, transportation, and crafts 22.9%, managerial, professional, and technical 34.7%, sales and office 25.4%, other services 16.3%; note: figures exclude the unemployed (2005). Industries: leading industrial power in the world, highly diversified and technologically advanced; petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, consumer goods, lumber, mining. Natural resources: coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber. Exports: $927.5 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): agricultural products 9.2% (soybeans, fruit, corn), industrial supplies 26.8% (organic chemicals), capital goods 49.0% (transistors, aircraft, motor vehicle parts, computers, telecommunications equipment), consumer goods 15.0% (automobiles, medicines) (2003). Imports: $1.727 trillion f.o.b. (2005 est.): agricultural products 4.9%, industrial supplies 32.9% (crude oil 8.2%), capital goods 30.4% (computers, telecommunications equipment, motor vehicle parts, office machines, electric power machinery), consumer goods 31.8% (automobiles, clothing, medicines, furniture, toys) (2003). Major trading partners: Canada, Mexico, Japan, UK, China, Germany (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 194 million (1997); mobile cellular: 69.209 million (1998). Radio broadcast stations: AM about 5,000, FM about 5,000, shortwave 18 (1998). Radios: 575 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: more than 1,500 (including nearly 1,000 stations affiliated with the five major networks—NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and PBS; in addition, there are about 9,000 cable TV systems) (1997). Televisions: 219 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 7,000 (2002 est.). Internet users: 165.75 million (2002).

Transportation: Railways: total: 194,731 km mainline routes (2000). Highways: total: 6,334,859 km; paved: 3,737,567 km (including 89,426 km of expressways); unpaved: 2,597,292 km (2000). Waterways: 41,009 km of navigable inland channels, exclusive of the Great Lakes. Ports and harbors: Anchorage, Baltimore, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Duluth, Hampton Roads, Honolulu, Houston, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Port Canaveral, Portland (Oregon), Prudhoe Bay, San Francisco, Savannah, Seattle, Tampa, Toledo. Airports: 14,801 (2002).

International disputes: prolonged drought in the Mexico border region has strained water-sharing arrangements; 1990 Maritime Boundary Agreement in the Bering Sea awaits Russian Duma ratification; maritime boundary disputes with Canada at Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and around the disputed Machias Seal Island and North Rock; The Bahamas have not been able to agree on a maritime boundary; US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and only mutual agreement or US abandonment of the area can terminate the lease; Haiti claims Navassa Island; US has made no territorial claim in Antarctica (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other state; Marshall Islands claims Wake Island.

1. Persons of Hispanic origin can be of any race.

Major sources and definitions

U.S. Territories and Outlying Areas


Federal republic.

The president is elected for a four-year term and may be reelected only once. The bicameral Congress consists of the 100-member Senate, elected to a six-year term with one-third of the seats becoming vacant every two years, and the 435-member House of Representatives, elected every two years. The minimum voting age is 18.



Republic of Turkey

National name: Türkiye Cumhuriyeti

President: Abdullah Gul (2007)

Prime Minister: Recep Tayyip Erdogan (2003)

Current government officials

Land area: 297,591 sq mi (770,761 sq km); total area: 301,382 sq mi (780,580 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 71,158,647 (growth rate: 1.0%); birth rate: 16.4/1000; infant mortality rate: 38.3/1000; life expectancy: 72.9; density per sq mi: 239

Capital (2003 est.): Ankara, 3,582,000 (metro. area), 3,456,100 (city proper)

Largest cities: Istanbul, 9,760,000 (metro. area), 8,831,805 (city proper); Izmir, 2,398,200; Bursa, 1,288,900; Adana, 1,219,900; Gaziantep, 979,500

Monetary unit: Turkish lira (YTL)

Languages: Turkish (official), Kurdish, Dimli, Azeri, Kabardian

Ethnicity/race: Turkish 80%, Kurdish 20% (estimated)

Religions: Islam (mostly Sunni) 99.8%, other 0.2% (mostly Christians and Jews)

Literacy rate: 87% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $552.7 billion; per capita $7,900. Real growth rate: 5.1%. Inflation: 7.7%. Unemployment: 10% (plus underemployment of 4.0%). Arable land: 30%. Agriculture: tobacco, cotton, grain, olives, sugar beets, pulse, citrus; livestock. Labor force: 24.7 million; note: about 1.2 million Turks work abroad; agriculture 35.9%, industry 22.8%, services 41.2% (3rd quarter, 2004). Industries: textiles, food processing, autos, electronics, mining (coal, chromite, copper, boron), steel, petroleum, construction, lumber, paper. Natural resources: antimony, coal, chromium, mercury, copper, borate, sulfur, iron ore, arable land, hydropower. Exports: $72.49 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): apparel, foodstuffs, textiles, metal manufactures, transport equipment. Imports: $101.2 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): machinery, chemicals, semifinished goods, fuels, transport equipment. Major trading partners: Germany, UK, U.S., Italy, France, Spain, Russia, China (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 19.5 million (1999); mobile cellular: 17.1 million (2001). Radio broadcast stations: AM 16, FM 107, shortwave 6 (2001). Radios: 11.3 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 635 (plus 2,934 repeaters) (1995). Televisions: 20.9 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 50 (2001). Internet users: 2.5 million (2002).

Transportation: Railways: total: 8,607 km (2002). Highways: total: 385,960 km; paved: 131,226 km (including 1,749 km of expressways); unpaved: 254,734 km (1999). Waterways: about 1,200 km. Ports and harbors: Gemlik, Hopa, Iskenderun, Istanbul, Izmir, Kocaeli (Izmit), Icel (Mersin), Samsun, Trabzon. Airports: 120 (2002).

International disputes: complex maritime, air, and territorial disputes with Greece in the Aegean Sea; Cyprus question remains with Greece; Syria and Iraq protest Turkish hydrological projects to control upper Euphrates waters; Turkey is quick to rebuff any perceived Syrian claim to Hatay province; border with Armenia remains closed over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Major sources and definitions


Turkey is at the northeast end of the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Europe and southwest Asia. To the north is the Black Sea and to the west is the Aegean Sea. Its neighbors are Greece and Bulgaria to the west, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania to the north and northwest (through the Black Sea), Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east, and Syria and Iraq to the south. The Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus divide the country. Turkey in Europe comprises an area about equal to the state of Massachusetts. Turkey in Asia is about the size of Texas. Its center is a treeless plateau rimmed by mountains.


Republican parliamentary democracy.


Anatolia (Turkey in Asia) was occupied in about 1900 B.C. by the Indo-European Hittites and, after the Hittite empire's collapse in 1200 B.C., by Phrygians and Lydians. The Persian Empire occupied the area in the 6th century B.C., giving way to the Roman Empire, then later the Byzantine Empire. The Ottoman Turks first appeared in the early 13th century, subjugating Turkish and Mongol bands pressing against the eastern borders of Byzantium and making the Christian Balkan states their vassals. They gradually spread through the Near East and Balkans, capturing Constantinople in 1453 and storming the gates of Vienna two centuries later. At its height, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to western Algeria. Lasting for 600 years, the Ottoman Empire was not only one of the most powerful empires in the history of the Mediterranean region, but it generated a great cultural outpouring of Islamic art, architecture, and literature.

After the reign of Sultan Süleyman I the Magnificent (1494–1566), the Ottoman Empire began to decline politically, administratively, and economically. By the 18th century, Russia was seeking to establish itself as the protector of Christians in Turkey's Balkan territories. Russian ambitions were checked by Britain and France in the Crimean War (1854–1856), but the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) gave Bulgaria virtual independence and Romania and Serbia liberation from their nominal allegiance to the sultan. Turkish weakness stimulated a revolt of young liberals known as the Young Turks in 1909. They forced Sultan Abdul Hamid to grant a constitution and install a liberal government. However, reforms were no barrier to further defeats in a war with Italy (1911–1912) and the Balkan Wars (1912–1913). Turkey sided with Germany in World War I, and, as a result, lost territory at the conclusion of the war.

Turkey's current boundaries were drawn in 1923 at the Conference of Lausanne, and Turkey became a republic with Kemal Atatürk as the first president. The Ottoman sultanate and caliphate were abolished, and modernization, reform, and industrialization began under Atatürk's direction. He secularized Turkish society, reducing Islam's dominant role and replacing Arabic with the Latin alphabet for writing the Turkish language. After Atatürk's death in 1938, parliamentary government and a multiparty system gradually took root in Turkey, despite periods of instability and brief intervals of military rule. Neutral during most of World War II, Turkey, on Feb. 23, 1945, declared war on Germany and Japan, but it took no active part in the conflict. Turkey became a full member of NATO in 1952, was a signatory in the Balkan Entente (1953), joined the Baghdad Pact (1955; later CENTO), joined the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) and the Council of Europe, and became an associate member of the European Common Market in 1963.

Turkey invaded Cyprus by sea and air on July 20, 1974, following the failure of diplomatic efforts to resolve conflicts between Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Turkey unilaterally announced a cease-fire on Aug. 16, after having gained control of 40% of the island. Turkish Cypriots established their own state in the north on Feb. 13, 1975. In July 1975, after a 30-day warning, Turkey took control of all the U.S. installations except the joint defense base at Incirlik, which it reserved for “NATO tasks alone.”

The establishment of military government in Sept. 1980 stopped the slide toward anarchy and brought some improvement in the economy. A constituent assembly, consisting of the six-member national security council and members appointed by them, drafted a new constitution that was approved by an overwhelming (91.5%) majority of the voters in a Nov. 6, 1982, referendum. Martial law was gradually lifted. The military, however, effectively continues to control the country.

About 12 million Kurds, roughly 20% of Turkey's population, live in the southeast region of Turkey. Turkey, however, does not officially recognize Kurds as a minority group and is therefore exempted from protecting their rights. Oppression of Kurds and Kurdish culture led to the emergence in 1984 of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a militant Kurdish terrorist campaign under the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan. Although the guerrilla movement sought independence at first, by the late 1980s the rebel Kurds were willing to accept an autonomous state or a federation with Turkey. About 35,000 have died in clashes between the military and the PKK during the 1980s and 1990s. On Feb. 16, 1999, Ocalan was captured. He was tried and convicted of treason and separatism on June 2, 1999, and sentenced to death.

On Aug. 17, 1999, western Turkey was devastated by an earthquake (magnitude 7.4) that left more than 17,000 dead and 200,000 homeless. Another huge earthquake struck in November.

Construction on a $3-billion, 1,000-mile oil pipeline running from Baku, Azerbaijan, to the Mediterranean port city of Ceyhan began in Sept. 2002. The pipeline opened in July 2006.

In Nov. 2002 elections, the recently formed Justice and Development Party (AK) won. Its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was barred from becoming prime minister, however, because of a conviction for “inciting religious hatred” by reciting an Islamic poem at a rally in 1998. Another popular AK leader, Abdullah Gul, served as prime minister until Turkish law was amended to permit Erdogan to run for a seat in parliament again, which he easily won. Gul resigned as prime minister, making way for Erdogan.

In March 2003, U.S.-Turkish relations were severely strained when Turkey's parliament narrowly failed to pass a resolution permitting the U.S. to use Turkish bases as a launching pad for the pending war against Iraq. Turkish opinion polls reported that an overwhelming 90% of Turks were against war in Iraq, but the U.S. had promised the country much-needed economic aid.

In Nov. 2003, two terrorist attacks rocked Istanbul. On Nov. 17, truck bombs exploded near two synagogues; on Nov. 22, the British Consulate and a British bank were targeted. More than 50 were killed and hundreds were wounded in the attacks; al-Qaeda is believed to be responsible.

In an effort to make itself more attractive for potential EU membership, Turkey has begun revamping some of its repressive laws and policies. In 2003, its parliament passed a law reducing the military's role in political life and offered partial amnesty to PKK members, many of whom have sought refuge in northern Iraq. In 2004, Turkish state television broadcast the first Kurdish language program and the government freed four Kurdish activists from prison. Turkey also abolished the death penalty in all but exceptional cases.

In April 2007, Prime Minister Erdogan nominated Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, an Islamist, as the ruling party's candidate for president over the objections of the military, which has historically been protective of a secular state. Gul, however, failed to win the necessary two-thirds majority in parliament, and a constitutional court later nullified the vote, citing a lack of a quorum. Many secularists in parliament, who accused Gul of harboring an Islamist agenda, boycotted the vote. Gul withdrew from the race in May. Gul was victorious in the third round of elections in August.

Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States and threatened to withdraw its support of the war in Iraq in October after the U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution labeling as genocide Turkey's murder of some 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. President George Bush strongly urged members of the committee to vote against the resolution.

Tension between Turkey and Iraq peaked in October, as Kurdish separatists in Iraq, members of the Kurdistan Workers Party, escalated their attacks into Turkey. In response, Turkey's Parliament voted, 507 to 19, to allow the deployment of troops into northern Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials feared a war on another front in Iraq would further destabilize the already fragile country. In December, Turkish fighter jets, with the help of the U.S. military, bombed areas in Dohuk Province in northern Iraq, targeting the Kurdistan Workers' Party. At least one civilian was reported to have died in the attack.

In January 2008, police arrested 13 ultranationalists, including three former military officers, who were accused of organizing and carrying out political murders. One of the officers, Veli Kucuk, is suspected of running a secret unit within the police force that orchestrated political violence against religious and ethnic minority groups.

In February 2008, Parliament voted in favor of a measure put forth by Prime Minister Erdogan that would lift the ban on women wearing headscarves in universities. Secular lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against the laws, concerned that their secularism faced attack by the conservative government.



Flag of Switzerland

National name: Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera/Svizra

President: Pascal Couchepin (2008)

Current government officials

Land area: 15,355 sq mi (39,769 sq km); total area: 15,942 sq mi (41,290 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 7,554,661 (growth rate: 0.4%); birth rate: 9.7/1000; infant mortality rate: 4.3/1000; life expectancy: 80.6; density per sq mi: 492

Capital (2003 est.): Bern, 122,700

Largest cities: Zurich, 971,800 (metro. area), 348,100 (city proper); Geneva, 178,900; Basel, 162,800; Lausanne, 117,400

Monetary unit: Swiss franc

Languages: German 64%, French 20%, Italian 7% (all official); Romansch 0.5% (national)

Ethnicity/race: German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%

Religions: Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 35%, Orthodox 2%, Muslim 4%, none 11% (2000)

Literacy rate: 99% (1980 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $264.1 billion; per capita $35,300. Real growth rate: 1.8%. Inflation: 1.2%. Unemployment: 3.8%. Arable land: 10%. Agriculture: grains, fruits, vegetables; meat, eggs. Labor force: 3.8 million; services 69%, industry 26%, agriculture 5% (1998). Industries: machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments. Natural resources: hydropower potential, timber, salt. Exports: $148.6 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products. Imports: $135 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles. Major trading partners: Germany, U.S., France, Italy, UK, Spain, Netherlands, Austria (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 4.82 million (1998); mobile cellular: 1.967 million (1999). Radio broadcast stations: AM 4, FM 113 (plus many low power stations), shortwave 2 (1998). Radios: 7.1 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 115 (plus 1,919 repeaters) (1995). Televisions: 3.31 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 44 (Switzerland and Liechtenstein) (2000). Internet users: 3.85 million (2002).

Transportation: Railways: total: 4,511 km (2002). Highways: total: 71,011 km; paved: 71,011 km (including 1,638 km of expressways); unpaved: 0 km (2000). Waterways: 65 km; Rhine (Basel to Rheinfelden, Schaffhausen to Bodensee); 12 navigable lakes. Ports and harbors: Basel. Airports: 66 (2002).

International disputes: none.

Major sources and definitions


Switzerland, in central Europe, is the land of the Alps. Its tallest peak is the Dufourspitze at 15,203 ft (4,634 m) on the Swiss side of the Italian border, one of 10 summits of the Monte Rosa massif. The tallest peak in all of the Alps, Mont Blanc (15,771 ft; 4,807 m), is actually in France. Most of Switzerland is composed of a mountainous plateau bordered by the great bulk of the Alps on the south and by the Jura Mountains on the northwest. The country's largest lakes—Geneva, Constance (Bodensee), and Maggiore—straddle the French, German-Austrian, and Italian borders, respectively. The Rhine, navigable from Basel to the North Sea, is the principal inland waterway.


Federal republic.


Called Helvetia in ancient times, Switzerland in 1291 was a league of cantons in the Holy Roman Empire. Fashioned around the nucleus of three German forest districts of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden, the Swiss Confederation slowly added new cantons. In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia gave Switzerland its independence from the Holy Roman Empire.

French revolutionary troops occupied the country in 1798 and named it the Helvetic Republic, but Napoléon in 1803 restored its federal government. By 1815, the French- and Italian-speaking peoples of Switzerland had been granted political equality.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna guaranteed the neutrality and recognized the independence of Switzerland. In the revolutionary period of 1847, the Catholic cantons seceded and organized a separate union called the Sonderbund, but they were defeated and rejoined the federation.

In 1848, the new Swiss constitution established a union modeled on that of the U.S. The federal constitution of 1874 established a strong central government while giving large powers of control to each canton. National unity and political conservatism grew as the country prospered from its neutrality. Its banking system became the world's leading repository for international accounts.

Strict neutrality was its policy in both world wars. Geneva was the seat of the League of Nations (later the European headquarters of the United Nations) and of a number of international organizations.

Allegations in the 1990s concerning secret assets of Jewish Holocaust victims deposited in Swiss banks led to international criticism and the establishment of a fund to reimburse the victims and their families.

Surprisingly, women were not given the right to vote or to hold office until 1971. Switzerland's first woman president—as well as the first Jew to assume the position—was Ruth Dreifuss in 1999.

In Sept. 2000, the Swiss voted against a plan to cut the number of foreigners in the country to 18% of the population (in 2000 foreigners made up 19.3%). Since 1970, four similar anti-immigration plans have failed.

On Sept 10, 2002, the Swiss abandoned their long-held neutrality to become the 190th member of the UN.

In Oct. 2003, Switzerland took a turn to the right when the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) had the strongest showing in parliamentary elections, garnering 28% of the vote. Its virulently anti-immigration, anti-EU leader, Christopher Blocher, was given a cabinet position. The SVP fared well again in October 2007 elections, winning 29% of the vote and gaining seven seats in Parliament. The party took the most votes in general election history. Immigration dominated the election, and the SVP was accused of running a racist campaign. In December, the coalition that has run Switzerland since 1959 fell apart when the SVP withdrew from the government to protest Parliament's ouster of Blocher as justice minister. The move shifted the government to the center-left. Also in December, Parliament elected Pascal Couchepin as president.



Flag of Spain

National name: Reino de España

Ruler: King Juan Carlos I (1975)

Prime Minister: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (2004)

Current government officials

Land area: 192,819 sq mi (499,401 sq km); total area: 194,896 sq mi (504,782 sq km)1

Population (2007 est.): 40,448,191 (growth rate: 0.1%); birth rate: 10.0/1000; infant mortality rate: 4.3/1000; life expectancy: 79.8; density per sq mi: 210

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Madrid, 5,130,000 (metro. area), 3,169,400 (city proper)

Other large cities: Barcelona, 1,528,800; Valencia, 741,100; Seville, 679,100

Monetary unit: Euro (formerly peseta)

Languages: Castilian Spanish 74% (official nationwide); Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2% (each official regionally)

Ethnicity/race: composite of Mediterranean and Nordic types

Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%

Literacy rate: 98% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $1.017 trillion; per capita $25,200. Real growth rate: 3.4%. Inflation: 3.4%. Unemployment: 10.1%. Arable land: 27%. Agriculture: grain, vegetables, olives, wine grapes, sugar beets, citrus; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish. Labor force: 20.67 million; agriculture 5.3%, manufacturing, mining, and construction 30.1%, services 64.6% (2004 est.). Industries: textiles and apparel (including footwear), food and beverages, metals and metal manufactures, chemicals, shipbuilding, automobiles, machine tools, tourism, clay and refractory products, footwear, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment. Natural resources: coal, lignite, iron ore, uranium, mercury, pyrites, fluorspar, gypsum, zinc, lead, tungsten, copper, kaolin, potash, hydropower, arable land. Exports: $194.3 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): machinery, motor vehicles; foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, medicines, other consumer goods. Imports: $271.8 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): machinery and equipment, fuels, chemicals, semifinished goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods, measuring and medical control instruments. Major trading partners: France, Germany, Portugal, Italy, UK, Netherlands (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 17.336 million (1999); mobile cellular: 8.394 million (1999). Radio broadcast stations: AM 208, FM 715, shortwave 1 (1998). Radios: 13.1 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 224 (plus 2,105 repeaters); note: these figures include 11 television broadcast stations and 88 repeaters in the Canary Islands (1995). Televisions: 16.2 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 56 (2000). Internet users: 7.89 million (2002).

Transportation: Railways: total: 14,189 km (2002). Highways: total: 663,795 km; paved: 657,157 km (including 10,317 km of expressways); unpaved: 6,638 km (1999). Waterways: 1,045 km. Ports and harbors: Aviles, Barcelona, Bilbao, Cadiz, Cartagena, Castellon de la Plana, Ceuta, Huelva, La Coruna, Las Palmas (Canary Islands), Malaga, Melilla, Pasajes, Gijon, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands), Santander, Tarragona, Valencia, Vigo. Airports: 152 (2002).

International disputes: Gibraltar residents vote overwhelmingly in referendum against “total shared sovereignty” arrangement worked out between Spain and UK to change 300-year rule over colony; Morocco protests Spain's control over the coastal enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera, the islands of Penon de Alhucemas and Islas Chafarinas, and surrounding waters; Morocco also rejected Spain's unilateral designation of a median line from the Canary Islands in 2002 to set limits to undersea resource exploration and refugee interdiction; Morocco allowed Spanish fishermen to fish temporarily off the coast of Western Sahara after an oil spill soiled Spanish fishing grounds; Portugal has periodically reasserted claims to territories around the town of Olivenza, Spain.

1. Including the Balearic and Canary Islands.

Major sources and definitions


Spain occupies 85% of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal, in southwest Europe. Africa is less than 10 mi (16 km) south at the Strait of Gibraltar. A broad central plateau slopes to the south and east, crossed by a series of mountain ranges and river valleys. Principal rivers are the Ebro in the northeast, the Tajo in the central region, and the Guadalquivir in the south. Off Spain's east coast in the Mediterranean are the Balearic Islands (1,936 sq mi; 5,014 sq km), the largest of which is Majorca. Sixty mi (97 km) west of Africa are the Canary Islands (2,808 sq mi; 7,273 sq km).


Parliamentary monarchy.


Spain, originally inhabited by Celts, Iberians, and Basques, became a part of the Roman Empire in 206 B.C., when it was conquered by Scipio Africanus. In A.D. 412, the barbarian Visigothic leader Ataulf crossed the Pyrenees and ruled Spain, first in the name of the Roman emperor and then independently. In 711, the Muslims under Tariq entered Spain from Africa and within a few years completed the subjugation of the country. In 732, the Franks, led by Charles Martel, defeated the Muslims near Poitiers, thus preventing the further expansion of Islam in southern Europe. Internal dissension of Spanish Islam invited a steady Christian conquest from the north.

Aragon and Castile were the most important Spanish states from the 12th to the 15th century, consolidated by the marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella I in 1469. In 1478, they established the Inquisition, to root out heresy and uncover Jews and Muslims who had not sincerely converted to Christianity. Torquemada, the most notorious of the grand inquisitors, epitomized the Inquisition's harshness and cruelty. The last Muslim stronghold, Granada, was captured in 1492. Roman Catholicism was established as the official state religion and most Jews (1492) and Muslims (1502) were expelled. In the era of exploration, discovery, and colonization, Spain amassed tremendous wealth and a vast colonial empire through the conquest of Mexico by Cortés (1519–1521) and Peru by Pizarro (1532–1533). The Spanish Hapsburg monarchy became for a time the most powerful in the world. In 1588, Philip II sent his invincible Armada to invade England, but its destruction cost Spain its supremacy on the seas and paved the way for England's colonization of America. Spain then sank rapidly to the status of a second-rate power under the rule of weak Hapsburg kings, and it never again played a major role in European politics. The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) resulted in Spain's loss of Belgium, Luxembourg, Milan, Sardinia, and Naples. Its colonial empire in the Americas and the Philippines vanished in wars and revolutions during the 18th and 19th centuries.

In World War I, Spain maintained a position of neutrality. In 1923, Gen. Miguel Primo de Rivera became dictator. In 1930, King Alfonso XIII revoked the dictatorship, but a strong antimonarchist and republican movement led to his leaving Spain in 1931. The new constitution declared Spain a workers' republic, broke up the large estates, separated church and state, and secularized the schools. The elections held in 1936 returned a strong Popular Front majority, with Manuel Azaña as president.

On July 18, 1936, a conservative army officer in Morocco, Francisco Franco Bahamonde, led a mutiny against the government. The civil war that followed lasted three years and cost the lives of nearly a million people. Franco was aided by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, while Soviet Russia helped the Loyalist side. Several hundred leftist Americans served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade on the side of the republic. The war ended when Franco took Madrid on March 28, 1939. Franco became head of the state, national chief of the Falange Party (the governing party), and prime minister and caudillo (leader).

In a referendum in 1947, the Spanish people approved a Franco-drafted succession law declaring Spain a monarchy again. Franco, however, continued as chief of state. In 1969, Franco and the Cortes (“states”) designated Prince Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor María de Borbón (who married Princess Sophia of Greece in 1962) to become king of Spain when the provisional government headed by Franco came to an end. Franco died on Nov. 20, 1975, and Juan Carlos was proclaimed king on Nov. 22.

Under pressure from Catalonian and Basque nationalists, Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez granted home rule to these regions in 1979. Basque separatists committed hundreds of terrorist bombings and kidnappings. With the overwhelming election of Prime Minister Felipe González Márquez and his Spanish Socialist Workers Party in the Oct. 20, 1982, parliamentary elections, the Franco past was finally buried.

Spain entered NATO in 1982. Spain, along with Portugal, joined the European Economic Community, now the European Union, in 1986. General elections in March 1996 produced a victory for the conservative Popular Party, and its leader, José María Aznar, became prime minister. He and his party easily won reelection in 2000.

In Aug. 2002, Batasuna, the political wing of the Basque terrorist organization ETA, was banned. The wisdom of driving the party underground instead of permitting it a legitimate political outlet has been questioned.

Aznar's backing of the U.S. war in Iraq was highly unpopular—90% of Spaniards opposed the war. (Spain sent no troops to Iraq during the war but contributed 1,300 peacekeeping forces during the reconstruction period.) Yet Aznar's Popular Party did extremely well in municipal elections in May 2003. The country's relative prosperity and the prime minister's tough stance against the ETA were thought to be responsible for the strong showing.

On March 11, 2004, Spain suffered its most horrific terrorist attack: 191 people were killed and 1,400 were injured in bombings at Madrid's railway station. The government at first blamed ETA, but soon evidence emerged that al-Qaeda was responsible. When record numbers of voters went to the polls days later, Aznar's Popular Party experienced a stinging defeat, and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of the Socialist Party became the new prime minister. Many Spaniards blamed Aznar's staunch support of the U.S. and the war in Iraq for making Spain an al-Qaeda target. Others were angered by what they saw as the government's politically motivated position that ETA was to blame for the attacks at the same time that links to al-Qaeda were emerging. By April, a dozen suspects, most of them Moroccan, were arrested for the bombings. On April 4, several suspects blew themselves up during a police raid to avoid capture. In May, the new prime minister made good on his campaign promise, recalling Spain's 1,300 soldiers from Iraq, much to the displeasure of the United States, which said Spain was appeasing terrorists.

In June 2005, despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, Spain legalized gay marriage. (Three other countries permit same-sex marriage: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada.)

After four decades of violence, the militant Basque separatist group ETA, responsible for more than 800 deaths and for terrorizing Spanish society with its bombings and other attacks, announced a permanent cease-fire on March 24, 2006. In June 2007, however, ETA renounced the cease-fire and vowed to begin a new offensive.

In a June 2006 referendum, the region of Catalonia voted for greater autonomy from Spain.

The government dissolved Parliament in January 2008 and called for new elections, which are scheduled to be held in March 2008.