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Venezuela Asserts Control Over Disputed Essequibo Region, Escalating Tensions with Guyana

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BNN Correspondents
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Venezuela Asserts Control Over Disputed Essequibo Region, Escalating Tensions with Guyana

In a move that has escalated tensions between Venezuela and Guyana, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is steadfastly pushing forward with actions to assert control over the disputed Essequibo region. This 159,500 square kilometer territory, currently under Guyana's administration but claimed by Venezuela, has been a point of contention between the two nations since oil was discovered off its coast in 2015. The recent maneuvers by Maduro have been seen by Guyana as a direct affront to its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

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Maduro's Bold Moves

Maduro has directed Venezuela's state oil company to issue extraction licenses in Essequibo and has proposed legislation to formally incorporate the region into Venezuela. In a recent non-binding referendum, over 95% of Venezuelan voters supported the creation of a Venezuelan state in Essequibo, although the turnout represented only about 10% of eligible voters. The Venezuelan President has also ordered the creation of local subsidiaries of his country’s public oil & gas companies, and issued an ultimatum to companies operating under concessions given by Guyana to withdraw their operations.

Guyana's Response

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In response to these developments, Guyana has placed its defense forces on high alert, viewing Venezuela's moves as a significant threat. Guyana's President Irfaan Ali has condemned Maduro's actions and sought intervention from the United Nations. He has also communicated to the UN secretary general and is asking the UN Security Council to consider intervening. Ali has reassured the country's investors, primarily oil companies, that their investments are safe.

International Court of Justice's Warning

The dispute over Essequibo is also before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which has warned Venezuela against actions that could change the status quo in the region. Venezuela, however, does not recognize the court's authority. Despite the ICJ's warning, Maduro's announcements signal a disregard for the ICJ's decision.

Economic Implications

Guyana's economy relies heavily on oil production and exports and has recently experienced rapid growth. Venezuela, despite possessing the world's largest proven oil reserves, is attempting to recover from a severe economic crisis, worsened by U.S. sanctions related to Maduro's 2018 election. The current territorial dispute and potential extraction of oil in the Essequibo region could have significant implications for both nations' economies.

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