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Article

Abstract

Surface geology and seismic and well data from the northwestern flank of the Venezuelan Andes indicate overthrusting of Andean basement rocks toward the adjacent Maracaibo Basin along a blind thrust fault. The frontal monocline is interpreted as the forelimb of a northwestward verging fault-related fold deformed over a crustal-scarle map. The Andean block has been thrust 20 km to the northwest and uplifted 10 km on a ramp that dips about 20o-30o southeastward. The thrust fault ramps up through crystalline basement rocks to a decollement horizon within the shaly units of the Cretaceous Colon-Mito Juan formations. Backthrusts in the monocline produce a wedge geometry and reduce the amount of blind slip required on the decollement northwest of the Andes. The rigid Andean uplift was caused by northwest-southeast compressive tectonic forces related to the convergence of the Caribbean plate, the Panama volcanic arc, and northwestern South America. The thick (up to 6 km) molasse deposits accumulated in the foredeep basin indicate that the Venezuelan Andes started to rise as early as the early Miocene. However, a late Miocene intramolasse unconformity marks the beginning of the formation of the monocline and the greatest uplift. The crustal-scale fault-related fold model may explain structural features seen in other areas of basement-involved foreland deformation.

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