Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday ordered the immediate exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mines in the territory of the Essequibo, the area disputed with Guyana, a day after announcing that he won the "yes" vote in the referendum proposed to claim sovereignty over that sector.
Maduro ordered that "immediately" proceed "to grant operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mines in the entire area of our Guyana Esequiba" — as the Venezuelan government calls the strip in dispute with the neighboring country — and for this, he ordered the creation of local subsidiaries of the public companies Corporación Estatal Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) and Corporación Venezolana de Guayana.
The latter is a conglomerate of mining companies – iron, bauxite, gold and diamonds, among other resources – located on the Venezuelan side in the state of Bolívar, bordering Guyana.
[A territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana that has been going on for almost two centuries intensifies]
The Essequibo River as it passes through Kurupukari, Guyana, on Nov. 19, 2023. Juan Pablo Arraez/AP
Maduro's announcement comes a day after electoral authorities made it official that the five questions with which the government wanted to claim sovereignty over the disputed territory were approved in Sunday's referendum.
Venezuela argues that the oil- and mineral-rich territory was stolen when the border was drawn more than a century ago. The initiative aimed to turn that region into Venezuela's 24th state.
Prior to the results of the popular vote, the Government had made no particular reference to the fact that its interest in controlling the territory was centred on the exploitation of resources such as oil or minerals.
Maduro presented on Tuesday on television an official map of the country in which the Essequibo is incorporated as if it were part of Venezuelan territory, without the delimitation of the disputed area. Earlier, he mobilized a contingent of the Venezuelan Army to Puerto Barima, in the state of Delta Amacuro, near the border of the area claimed from Guyana, the newspaper El País reported.
He also appointed Gen. Alexis Rodríguez Cabello, a deputy for Venezuela's ruling United Socialist Party, as the sole provisional authority for a region comprising the disputed territories, after announcing a special law creating a new province.
"We want the peaceful rescue of Guyana Essequiba. Let's start responding to a people who spoke out on December 3," Maduro said during a meeting of the Council of State. "Our Guiana Essequiba has been de facto occupied by the British empire and its heirs and they have destroyed the area," he added.
The U.S. has said the referendum does not resolve the territorial dispute with Guyana.
"We call on Venezuela and Guyana to continue to seek a peaceful solution to their dispute. This is not something that can be resolved by referendum," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a press briefing on Monday.
Disputes over boundary boundaries began with the Paris Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 which gave sovereignty of the territory to then-British Guiana.
The resolution was denounced by Venezuela at the UN in 1962 and, since then, despite the agreement to seek a negotiated solution reached in 1966, the litigation has continued, with some incidents included.
With information from EFE and The Associated Press.