Venezuela Boundary Dispute

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Venezuela Boundary Dispute,

diplomatic controversy, notable for the tension caused between Great Britain and the United States during much of the 19th cent. Of long standing, the dispute concerned the boundary between VenezuelaVenezuela
, officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, republic (2015 est. pop. 29,275,000), 352,143 sq mi (912,050 sq km), N South America. Venezuela has a coastline 1,750 mi (2,816 km) long on the Caribbean Sea in the north.
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 and British Guiana (now GuyanaGuyana
, officially Co-operative Republic of Guyana, republic (2015 est. pop. 769,000), 83,000 sq mi (214,969 sq km), NE South America. It is bordered on the N by the Atlantic Ocean, on the E by Suriname, on the S and W by Brazil, and on the W by Venezuela.
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); the Venezuelan claim, extending E to the EssequiboEssequibo
, longest river of Guyana, c.600 mi (970 km) long, rising in the Guiana Highlands, S Guyana, and flowing generally N to the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the river's course is broken by rapids and waterfalls. There are many islands in its wide estuary.
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 River (and thus taking in most of the settled areas of British Guiana) had been inherited from Spain, and that of Great Britain, stretching W to the OrinocoOrinoco
, river of Venezuela, estimated to be from 1,500 to 1,700 mi (2,410–2,735 km) long. Rising near Mt. Delgado Chalbaud in the Guiana Highlands, S Venezuela, the Orinoco flows in a wide arc through tropical rain forests and savannas (llanos), forming part of the
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, was acquired from the Dutch in 1810.

The controversy did not gain importance until Great Britain in 1841 had a provisional line (the Schomburgk Line) run. Discovery of gold in the region intensified the dispute. Great Britain refused to arbitrate concerning the settled area; Venezuela, however, maintained that the British were delaying in order to push settlements farther into the disputed area. Venezuela sought aid from the United States and in 1887 broke off diplomatic relations with Great Britain. President Grover Cleveland's secretary of state, Thomas Francis BayardBayard, Thomas Francis
, 1828–98, U.S. statesman, b. Wilmington, Del.; son of James Asheton Bayard (1799–1880). He began his law practice at Wilmington (1851). An active Democrat, Bayard was elected U.S.
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, began negotiations, but the matter lapsed.

In 1895, Secretary of State OlneyOlney, Richard,
1835–1917, American cabinet member, b. Oxford, Mass. He was a successful Boston lawyer and had served briefly in the state legislature before President Cleveland appointed him to his cabinet.
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, invoking a new and broader interpretation of the Monroe DoctrineMonroe Doctrine,
principle of American foreign policy enunciated in President James Monroe's message to Congress, Dec. 2, 1823. It initially called for an end to European intervention in the Americas, but it was later extended to justify U.S.
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, virtually demanded arbitration, basing the right of the United States to intercede on the ground that any state whose interests or prestige is involved in a quarrel may intervene. Lord Salisbury, the British prime minister, offered to submit some of the area to arbitration but refused to allow British settlements to be submitted to adjudication. That reply, a rebuff to Olney, brought Cleveland's momentous message to Congress on Dec. 17, 1895, which denounced British refusal to arbitrate and maintained that it was the duty of the United States to take steps to determine the boundary and to resist any British aggression beyond that line once it had been determined.

The president's message caused a commotion; Congress supported him but, although there was some war talk, neither nation desired to fight. Salisbury, involved in European troubles and disturbed by difficulties in South Africa, sent a conciliatory note recognizing the broad interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine. An American commission was appointed, and the line that was finally drawn in 1899 made an award generally favorable to Great Britain. Venezuela has periodically revived its claims to the disputed land and offshore territory, most recently in under the populist presidents Hugo Chávez (2000) and Nicolás Maduro (2015). In 2018 the United Nations referred the revived dispute to the International Court of Justice.

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References in periodicals archive ?
On 3 October 1899, the American boundary commission rendered its decision: the Schomburgk Line will stand!