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Venezuela adds disputed oil-rich region to its map

Energy companies should start exploration in “our Guyana Esequiba,” President has said

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro shows a map of the country, which includes the ‘Guyana Esequiba’ province. ©  AFP / Venezuelan Presidency

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has displayed an updated map showing a resource-rich territory disputed with neighboring Guyana as a part of .

The map including ‘Guyana Esequiba’ province will be published and distributed in schools and universities, Maduro said on Tuesday.

A law on the creation of the new province has already been submitted to the country’s parliament, according to the president.

The area that Guyana calls ‘Essequibo’ has been a bone of contention between the two countries since the 19th century. In 1899, arbitration assigned the region to Guyana, a British colony at the time, but Venezuela never accepted the decision. In 2018, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres referred the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), with the Hague-based body ruling in April that it had jurisdiction in the case.

On Sunday, a referendum in Venezuela returned a result overwhelmingly supporting Maduro’s government on the status of ‘Guyana Esequiba’. The vote confirmed that Caracas should reject the 1899 arbitration decision as well as the ICJ’s jurisdiction over the matter. It also endorsed a plan to offer Venezuelan citizenship to the residents of the Guyana-administered territory.

Venezuela’s state-run companies will “immediately… proceed to give operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mines in our Guayana Esequiba,” Maduro said.

Any other firms operating in the area will have three months to withdraw from the territory, he explained, adding that a zone of integral defense of ‘Guayana Esequiba’ would be created.

Read more Venezuelans vote to back potential annexation

A consortium led by US company Exxon Mobil started producing oil off Guyana’s coast in late 2019 under a license from the Guyanese government, with exports beginning the next year.

Later on Tuesday, Guyanese President Irfaan Ali said Maduro was showing “blatant disregard” for the ICJ, which said last week that it forbade Venezuela from taking any action to change the status quo of the region.

“The Guyana Defense Force is on high alert… Venezuela has clearly declared itself an outlaw nation,” Ali announced. The country would be contacting the UN Security Council and the ICJ concerning the development on Wednesday morning, he added.

Ali also addressed foreign companies operating in Guyana, saying that “our message is very clear, your investments are safe,” insisting that Georgetown has the support of the international community in its dispute with Caracas.


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