Tension between Guyana and Venezuela continues to grow. The escalation of the dispute between the two countries over the Essequibo region increased after the referendum promoted by the Government of Nicolás Maduro on that territory, to which Guyana declared itself “on maximum alert.” The situation coincided with a plane crash near the border with Venezuela. Several governments in the region and organizations, such as the OAS, have expressed their concern and even this Friday, December 8, the UN Security Council addressed the matter, although no statement was made. Meanwhile, Maduro announced the creation of a division of the state-owned PDVSA to carry out oil exploration, among other decrees related to the area.
A week after the controversial referendum promoted by Venezuela on the Essequibo, a region in dispute with Guyana and which is rich in oil, tension continues to rise. Meanwhile, the international community is multiplying calls for an appeasement of spirits between the two neighboring countries.
The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, signed several decrees this Friday, including the creation of a division of the PDVSA oil company to “proceed to give licenses” for the exploitation of oil, gas and minerals in “the entire” territory and in “all” the seas of Guayana Esequiba, as he called a new region that is intended to be included on the map of Venezuela and that contemplates the area in dispute.
The referendum increased tension
Bilateral relations worsened after the call for a consultative referendum in Venezuela on the Essequibo region.
The disputed demarcation is Rich in fuels and minerals, it represents almost 70% of the Guyanese territory and is home to more than an eighth of the country’s total population. Caribbean, to which Venezuela has promised to “grant Venezuelan nationality.”
The popular, non-binding, five-question consultation, held on Sunday, December 3, included one that rejects the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to decide which country the area in dispute belongs to. Some political and security analysts have described the referendum as a show of strength by President Nicolás Maduro and a test of support for his government, ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for 2024.
95.93% of Venezuelans who participated in the non-binding consultative referendum responded affirmatively to the fifth question, in which they were asked whether or not they agreed with annexing the disputed area with Guyana to the national map and creating a new one there. region called Guayana Esequiba.
After the referendum, Maduro reported a plan to deploy the Venezuelan Army in “non-conflict” areas near the border with its neighbor and grant oil exploitation licenses.
Given this, the president of Guyana, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, pointed out that this is an “imminent threat” to territorial integrity, which is why he announced “precautionary measures” to protect the country.
I immediately ordered to publish and take to all schools, high schools, Community Councils, public establishments, universities and in all homes in the country the new Map of Venezuela with our Guayana Esequiba. This is our beloved map! pic.twitter.com/qliW31Lyb9
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) December 6, 2023
The international response
The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS), headed by Luis Almagro, described the referendum on Essequibo promoted by Maduro as “illegal and illegitimate.”
In a statement, Luis Almagro’s office denounced the “aggressive posture” of the Venezuelan Government. “The recent actions taken by the Regime in Venezuela not only endanger the development and stability of Guyana, but also pose a broader risk to the security of Latin America and the Caribbean,” the OAS warned.
In addition, Almagro asked the permanent council of the continental organization to convene an extraordinary meeting to “discuss possible measures to mitigate” the situation.
The message of concern from the OAS coincided with the call from Mercosur, which also expressed its concern.
The Mercosur nations – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – urged “both parties to dialogue and search for a peaceful solution” and, in a joint statement, expressed “their deep concern about the increase in tensions between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.”
The statement was also signed by Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, which are not members of the bloc.
For his part, the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, insisted on the need to “build peace” on the continent.
“We don’t want wars here in South America. “We don’t need wars, we don’t need conflicts,” added the Brazilian president.
The UN Security Council analyzed the situation
The UN Security Council called an “urgent” meeting on December 8 to address the dispute. The meeting was called at the request of Guyana, which denounced Venezuela’s position on Essequibo, calling it a “threat to international peace and security.”
“I believe that the peace and stability of the region are at stake. And I believe that the governance of the region is at stake. What Maduro is hinting at is an action that can destabilize the economy, peace and governance of the region, and it can put the entire Western Hemisphere in a place where it has never been before,” Irfaan Ali, president of Guyana, said Friday.
The meeting took place behind closed doors on Friday afternoon and ended without statements or communication from the participants.
Russia also spoke out on the dispute, ally of the Maduro Government and who defended a peaceful settlement.
“We assume that this matter is part of the relations between Venezuela and Guyana and must be resolved in a spirit of good neighborliness through mutually acceptable peaceful solutions,” said María Zajárova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement.
Meanwhile, the United States expressed its support for the Guyanese position. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, spoke on December 6 with the President of Guyana, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, to convey the “unconditional support” of his Government.
Accident in the area: for Maduro it is a message “from beyond”
Added to the dispute was the accident of a helicopter in an area near the border, in which five Guyanese soldiers died and two were rescued. The helicopter disappeared on Wednesday, December 6, about 48 kilometers from the border with Venezuela.
In this regard, Maduro assured that it is a “message from beyond” about the territorial controversy.
“I convey my condolences to the people of Guyana and the military forces, but this is a message from beyond: Don’t mess with Venezuela, whoever messes with Venezuela will dry up,” said the Venezuelan president. before hundreds of supporters who gathered outside the presidential palace, in Caracas, on Friday, December 8.
The dispute between Venezuela and Guyana has been going on for more than a century. Venezuela maintains that Essequibo is part of its territory, as in 1777, when it was a colony of Spain. It refers to the Geneva agreement, signed in 1966, before Guyana’s independence from the United Kingdom, which established the basis for a negotiated solution.
It also annulled the 1899 award that integrated the region into the British Empire. Guyana defends that award and asks that it be ratified by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), but Caracas does not recognize this court.
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