Republic on the northern coast of South America. Under Spanish rule after 1546, Venezuela was one of the first Latin American colonies to declare its independence, and from 1821 to 1830 it formed part of Bolivar's Great Colombia, which also included Colombia and Ecuador. Venezuela's history during the 19th century was marked by a succession of military dictatorships and chronic internal disorder. During 1907-45, Venezuela saw significant economic growth, and in 1945, democratic government was established. Several military coups followed, but since 1959 Venezuela's governments have been progressive and democratically elected. One of the founding members of OPEC, Venezuela benefited enormously from the massive increases in oil prices during the 1970s. Oil revenues funded major economic expansion and public-works projects during the 1970s and 1980s. In recent years, banking failures and inflation have put serious strains on the nation's economy.