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Colombia and Venezuela Border Dispute

The origins of the border controversy between Colombia and Venezuela, like the border problems with Guyana, are an outgrowth of the struggles between the major European colonial powers of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries for new markets and lands. While Spain, Portugal, Britain, and Tolland competod with one another for power and wealth, their colonies in the New World began their struggles for independence. In the early years of the nineteenth century, the Latin American colonies emerged as independent nations without the benefit of clearly defined national boundaries.

Simon Bolivar, the father of South American democracy, dreamed of a federation, a sort of United States of Spanish America, and through his influence united Colombia, Vene7uiela, and Ecuador in the Republic of Gran Colombia. But, by the time of his death in 1830, Bolivar's federation of Gran Colombia had fallen apart, and Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador became separate states. Independent Venezuela was at once faced with boundary problems.

Venezuela, during the period between 1836-1840, attempted to settle the question of her western border with Colombia after the dissolution of Bolivar's Gran Colombia in 1830, however Venezuela was unable to reach a satistactory resolution. Negotiations with Colombia were long and involved. In 1891, the Colombian border controversy was submitted to Spain for settlement, and in 1898 the results of the Arbitration Award were handed down mostly in Colombia's favor. Venezuela claimed thit the Colombians had unduly influenced the Spanish Queen, Maria Cristina, and that they had evidence of collusion.

Colombia and Venezuela sought additional arbitration; this time with the help of the Swiss government in 1917. Ultimately, an award was handed down in 1922, but it was not until 1932 that the boundary was finally marked. On June 17, 1941, Venezuela and Colombia concluded another border treaty, this time with the intent of demarcating the rivers and waterways between the two nations. After the treaty had been ratified in the Venezuelan Congress, it was alleged that. Colombia was using the treaty to encroach on the Gulf of Venezuela and thus threatening Venezuela's sovereignty.

Venezuelan nationalists were convinced that Venezuela had "lost" valuable territories to Colombia in 1898 and again in 1941 which were a source of national treasure. With the onset of petroleum exploration in the area around the Lago de Maracaibo, it was felt that the territories lost to Colombia and in the Gulf of Venezuela itself, contained valuable oil deposits which were now completely lost to the Venezuelan people.

During the 1960's, another set of border problem arose with Colombia over the oil rich territorial waters of the Gulf of Venezuela. Colombia claimed half of the Gulf of Venezuela on the grounds that the border extended from her portion of the Guajira Peninsula on the western shore of the gulf. Venezuela claimed that the gulf was historically a part of her territorial waters, and asserted that Colombia was aggressively seeking a valuable source of petroleum. Negotiations have been conducted at various times since 1965 but with little progress.

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