As the clock ticks towards a historic referendum on the disputed Essequibo region, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has pushed the rhetoric of reclaiming the territory from Guyana. The Essequibo region, also known as Guayana Esequiba, represents a significant portion of Guyana's western territory and has been a bone of contention for over a century. Maduro's recent assertion is seen as an attempt to assert Venezuela's sovereignty and control over the region's valuable natural resources, including potential oil reserves.
Venezuela's Bold Move Towards Referendum
Venezuela conducted an electoral dry-run ahead of the December 3rd referendum, a vote that tripled the tally of any previous simulation in the country. This referendum aims to gauge popular support for the country's claim over the disputed Essequibo region, a conflict that dates back to colonial times and reignited in 2015 with ExxonMobil's discovery of significant oil reserves. However, this referendum is not legally binding and won't directly influence the ongoing legal battle for the Essequibo Strip.
Opposition and International Reaction
Maria Corina Machado, Maduro's opposition candidate, has called for the suspension of the December 3 referendum. In her view, the referendum serves as a distraction amidst the challenging political, economic, and social climate leading up to the 2024 presidential elections. Guyana also responded by submitting papers to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), requesting the court to halt Venezuela's current course of action. There's a looming threat that Maduro's government could face regional action and potential regime change should he proceed with plans to invade and annex the Essequibo region. The USA and the Organization of American States (OAS) may invoke sanctions and military action against Venezuela.
Unwavering Guyana’s Response
Guyana's Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo warned President Maduro not to underestimate Guyana's resolve in defending Essequibo. Guyana remains united against Caracas's claims to the mineral and forest-rich Essequibo county. The upcoming referendum is perceived as Caracas's attempt to exit the International Court of Justice, where the border dispute is presently being reviewed. The Government of Guyana has been commended for their robust response in defense of their sovereignty and territorial integrity against Venezuela's provocative actions. The global community and the entire Guyanese nation stand firm in the defense of their homeland.