Venezuela-Guyana Border Dispute Escalates as Maduro Authorizes Oil Exploration Despite ICJ Warning

Venezuela-Guyana Border Dispute Escalates as Maduro Authorizes Oil Exploration Despite ICJ Warning
Venezuela releases new map, claims Guyana’s Esequiba region.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced that he plans to allow oil exploration in an area under dispute with Guyana. Guyana responded by stating it would report Maduro’s comments to the United Nations and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Maduro’s decision follows a recent referendum where voters rejected the ICJ’s jurisdiction and supported creating a new state in the contested territory.

Despite Maduro insisting the referendum is binding, the ICJ prohibited Venezuela from making any changes to the status quo in the oil-rich region. Maduro stated that state oil company PDVSA and state iron and steel maker CVG would establish divisions for the disputed region, creating PDVSA Esequibo and CVG Esequibo. Operating licenses for oil, gas, and mining exploration would be granted immediately, according to Maduro.

Additionally, Maduro proposed a law to the government-controlled legislature to create the new state, giving companies operating in the area three months to leave. Guyanese President Irfaan Ali condemned Maduro’s actions, stating that Venezuela had shown a “blatant disregard” for the ICJ ruling. Ali pledged to report the matter to the UN Security Council and the ICJ, with the Guyana Defense Force on high alert.

Venezuela renewed its claim over the 160,000 square km territory in recent years due to the discovery of offshore oil and gas. The maritime border and a consortium led by Exxon Mobil began oil production off Guyana’s coast in 2019. Guyana, currently producing 400,000 barrels per day, received bids for new exploration blocks this year. Ali assured investors that their investments are secure and that the international community supports Guyana in addressing border issues through appropriate channels.

Exxon spokesperson emphasized that border issues are to be addressed by governments and international organizations. Analysts suggest that Maduro’s move is a way to assess his government’s support ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

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