After a nationwide referendum, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has revived claim over the disputed oil & mineral-rich disputed Essequibo region (area of 61,776 square mile / 159,000 sq km or two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory) – which is generally accepted as part of Guyana. He has directed the country’s state-owned companies to “immediately” explore and exploit the oil, gas & mines in the area. Venezuela has long disputed the border decided by international arbitrators in 1899, when Guyana was a British colony. 
Maduro showed a “new map” of Venezuela including Essequibo region. He said residents of the area would be granted Venezuelan nationality. He plans to distribute maps in all schools & public buildings in Venezuela.
Maduro has ordered the creation of local subsidiaries of Venezuelan public companies in oil & gas and mining. He announced the creation of a new Comprehensive Defence Operational Zone for the disputed area.
Guyana President Irfaan Ali has called the move a step towards annexation and an “existential threat’ and a “blatant disregard” for ICJ ruling. Ali said his country is taking necessary steps to protect itself & Guyana’s defence force was speaking with counterparts in other countries. Guyana has taken the matter to the UN.
The maritime border between Guyana & Venezuela is also in dispute. A consortium led by ExxonMobil began producing oil off Guyana’s coast in late 2019 and exports started in 2020. Venezuela reactivated its claim over the territory, after discovery of offshore oil & gas.
Guyana has received bids for shallow & deep water blocks from local & foreign companies. The exploration licenses have not been signed. Ali said investors in Guyana have nothing to worry about.

Analysts see the vote as an attempt by Maduro to gauge/shore his government’s support ahead of 2024 presidential election.

MitKat continues to monitor geo-political risks. To know more, visit www.datasurfr.ai

Disclaimer: The article has reference to open sources including Reuters, CNN & Times of India. Image Source: Map via El Tiempo Latino

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