Fear of invasion of Guyana: Venezuela annexes oil region as a federal state

Fear of invasion of Guyana
Venezuela annexes oil region as a federal state

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In December, President Maduro lets Venezuelans vote on the annexation of the oil-rich Essequibo region administered by Guyana. Guyana vows to secure the region. Then both heads of state declare that they will renounce violence. However, the new law triggers new fears of war.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has passed a law to create a new Venezuelan federal state around the oil-rich Essequibo region in neighboring Guyana. “The decision made by the Venezuelan people in the consultative referendum will be fulfilled in all its parts, and with this law we will defend Venezuela on the international stage,” Maduro announced.

At the beginning of December, Maduro held a controversial referendum in Venezuela in which, according to official information, 96 percent of participants voted in favor of joining “Guyana Esequiba” as a Venezuelan federal state. The vote was considered non-binding because the people of Essequibo did not vote. Nevertheless, thousands of people in Guyana took to the streets to protest against the vote and President Irfaan Ali pledged to secure the country’s borders.

The law will now create the 24th federal state “within the territorial policy” of Venezuela, the presidential palace said. The population of this area will also be represented by one representative in Venezuela’s next parliament, which will be elected in 2025. It also provides for “the provision and formation of a State and National High Commission for the Defense of Guiana Esequiba.”

The dispute over territory claimed by Venezuela in western Guyana appeared to have calmed down recently after both presidents shook hands and exchanged gifts at a summit of Latin American and Caribbean countries a month ago. “Peace and love,” Maduro told his counterpart Irfaan Ali. However, the new law is raising fears that Venezuela could invade the region and trigger a war.

Venezuela cites agreements before Guyana’s independence

Venezuela has long laid claim to the resource-rich area, which covers about two-thirds of its neighboring country. The current boundaries were established in 1899 in an arbitration award from a tribunal in Paris, initiated by the USA and Great Britain. Venezuela relies on an agreement with the United Kingdom from 1966 – a few months before the then colony of British Guiana became independent. This provided for a negotiated solution to the dispute. The International Court of Justice is dealing with the case at Guyana’s request, but Venezuela rejects its jurisdiction – and has also anchored this in the law that has now been passed.

Immense deposits were discovered off Guyana’s coast in 2015, increasing the country’s oil reserves to eleven billion barrels. This has now given the English-speaking country – one of the poorest in South America – the greatest economic growth in the world.

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