08:30 GMT +319 November 2019
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    Lake Maracaibo Area, Venezuela

    Colombia vs. Venezuela: Fight for the Maritime Borders

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    Both countries have claimed an area in the Gulf of Venezuela near the Guajira Peninsula since they gained independence from Spain in the 19th century. The main factor that gives strategic importance to these waters is the fact that it connects the Caribbean Sea and Lake Maracaibo, an important source of crude petroleum for Venezuela.

    The Colombian Foreign Ministry sent a letter of protest to Venezuela after Caracas issued a decree on maritime borders in a disputed area in the Gulf of Venezuela near the Guajira Peninsula.

    On May 26, the Venezuelan government adopted Decree 1787, which creates Operating Zones of Integral Maritime and Insular Defense, and is aimed to bolster the country’s national defense system.

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the fixation of the maritime border on a unilateral basis was dictated by the country’s defense needs.

    The area has been claimed by both countries since they gained independence from Spain in the 19th century. During the colonial period, Spain did not mark borders in the area due to the fierce resistance from the local people of Guajiro. The border was established in 1941, but the maritime dispute remained unsettled.

    The main factor that gives strategic importance to these waters is the fact that it connects the Caribbean Sea and Lake Maracaibo, an important source of crude petroleum for Venezuela. The gulf therefore helps connect the wells and refineries in Lake Maracaibo to the world markets.

    Jimmy Chamorro, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Colombian Senate, said that to be settled, the dispute will require intensive negotiations via diplomatic channels.

    Official talks between Venezuela and Colombia over the disputed area have been frozen for six years.

    However, for Colombia it is not the only current territorial dispute. In 2013, Colombia refused to abide by a decision of the UN International Court of Justice that a disputed area in the Caribbean near the San Andres archipelago must be handed over to Nicaragua. The two countries have claimed the San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina archipelagos since 2001.

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    territorial dispute, Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela, Colombia
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