Reports from Brazilian intelligence suggest an imminent military move by the Venezuelan army against the Republic of Guyana in the coming days, raising concerns about regional stability and territorial disputes in South America.
Venezuela’s interest in the territory of Essequibo, a vast area rich in natural resources located between Guyana and Venezuela, has sparked tensions. This territory, larger than Greece, is home to indigenous Guyanese populations, and both countries claim sovereignty over it.
The ongoing contention centers on Essequibo, an area abundant in oil and valuable minerals. Venezuela aims to determine its future through a referendum scheduled for Sunday, intending to transform Essequibo into a Venezuelan state. However, the practical and legal ramifications of this vote, including its potential to alter the geopolitical landscape, remain unclear, stirring unease among the region’s inhabitants.
Encompassing an area of 61,600 square miles (159,500 square kilometers), Essequibo constitutes two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. Nonetheless, Venezuela has historically laid claim to Essequibo, tracing its possession back to the Spanish colonial period. The border defined by international arbitrators in 1899, during Guyana’s time as a British colony, has been contested by Venezuela for an extended period.
Venezuela’s commitment to its territorial claims has fluctuated over the years. In 2015, ExxonMobil’s announcement of significant oil discoveries near Essequibo reignited Venezuela’s interest in the region.
Disputed boundaries were arbitrated by representatives from Britain, Russia, and the United States. The U.S. partially represented Venezuela in the discussions due to Venezuela’s severance of diplomatic ties with Great Britain.
Venezuelan officials assert allegations of collusion between Americans and Europeans aimed at deceiving their country. They argue that the 1966 agreement resolving the dispute effectively nullified the initial arbitration. Guyana, the sole English-speaking country in South America, contends that the initial agreement holds legal validity and binding force. In 2018, it petitioned the International Court of Justice to affirm this stance.
The impending referendum in Venezuela and the intensifying rhetoric from both nations signal escalating tensions, raising fears of potential military action and further instability in the region.