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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 ministers.

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.


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