Venezuela has been affected by destructive earthquakes for the past four centuries. According to entries in the national seismic catalog, there have been about 180 earthquakes which have caused some type of damage to the country. The most catastrophic earthquake occurred on March 26, 1812, on the Bocono fault system and caused widespread destruction in the cities of Merida and Caracas and claimed an estimated 30,000 lives.
After the July 29, 1967, damaging earthquake (with a moderate magnitude of 6.3) caused widespread damage to the northern coastal area of Venezuela and to the Caracas Valley, the Venezuelan Government decided to establish a Presidential Earthquake Commission. This commission undertook the task of coordinating the efforts to study the after-effects of the earthquake. The July 1967 earthquake claimed numerous lives and caused extensive damage to the capital of Venezuela. In 1968, the U.S Geological Survey conducted a seismological field study in the northern coastal area and in the Caracas Valley of Venezuela. the objective was to study the area that sustained severe, moderate, and no damage to structures. A reported entitled Ground Amplification Studies in Earthquake Damage Areas: The Caracas Earthquake of 1967 documented, for the first time, short-period seismic wave ground-motion amplifications in the Caracas Valley. Figure 1 shows the area of severe damage in the Los Palos Grantes suburb and the correlation with depth of alluvium and the arabic numbers denote the ground amplification factor at each site in the area. the Venezuelan Government initiated many programs to study in detail the damage sustained and to investigate the ongoing construction practices. These actions motivated professionals in the academic, private, and Government sectors to develops further capabilities and self-sufficiency in the fields of engineering and seismology. Allocation of funds was made to assist in training professionals and technicians and in developing new seismological stations and new programs at the national level in earthquake engineering and seismology. A brief description of the ongoing programs in Venezuela is listed below. these programs are being performed by FUNVISIS and by other national organizations listed at the end of this article.