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Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, has ordered the immediate start of exploration and exploitation of oil reserves in the Essequibo region—the disputed territory that Venezuelans voted to annex.
Per an AP report, President Maduro said that he is “to grant operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mines in the entire area of our Essequibo.”
He also issued an order for the creation of local subsidiaries of the state oil and mining companies, PDVSA and Corporacion Venezolana de Guayana.
The Venezuelan parliament has yet to pass a law establishing Venezuela’s jurisdiction over the Essequibo region, which represents two-thirds of the territory of Guyana and is where its oil riches are concentrated.
Guyana has refused to accept the results of the Venezuelan referendum, saying it was an attempt at annexing most of its territory, even after the International Court of Justice ruled that Essequibo is part of Guyana. Venezuela’s government has said it does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ on the matter.
Essequibo used to be part of Venezuela during its colonial period but at the end of the 19th century an international arbitration gave the land to Guyana, then a British colony. Venezuela has never accepted the arbitration decision but for most of the time since it was made it has not acted on its grievance.
Following last weekend’s referendum, Guyana said it will reach out to the UN Security Council for help if Venezuela takes any further steps to establish control over the Essequibo region.
The Attorney General of the former British colony told the AFP that "any action or any attempt to take any action pursuant to the referendum will necessitate a resort to the UN Security Council as an injured party."
As Maduro yesterday announced the set-up of a Comprehensive Defense Operational Zone for the Essequibo region, Guyana’s Attorney General said that "In terms of military, it (the UNSC) can authorise the use of armed forces by member states to assist in the enforcement."
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com