Abstract The Tertiary Falcón Basin in northwestern Venezuela has a privileged position in the geodynamic puzzle of northwestern South America, occurring in a region where several major plates (Caribbean, South America and Nazca) and minor lithospheric blocks (Maracaibo, Bonaire and Western Colombia) are interacting. A combination of good exposures due to aridity and a near-continuous sedimentary record in a now inverted basin helps to unravel the Neogene and Quaternary geodynamic evolution of this region. A neotectonic and microtectonic investigation of the Plio-Quaternary sedimentary rocks of the northern Falcón Basin reveals that this region is subject to a compressive to transpressive regime at present. This regime is characterized by a NNW–SSE oriented maximum horizontal stress, and a ENE–WSW trending intermediate (or minimum) horizontal stress, as is confirmed by focal mechanism solutions. This stress field is in agreement both with the NNE-directed extrusion of the Maracaibo and Bonaire blocks in Western Venezuela, where the Falcón Basin is located, and present-day transpression along the Caribbean-South America plate boundary zone.