Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro telephoned his counterpart Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Saturday, according to the Brazilian Presidency. Lula has conveyed to Maduro point by point what was agreed on Thursday by the main countries of South America: he has underlined the "growing concern" of neighboring countries about the increase in bellicosity around the conflict over the Essequibo, he has insisted on the need for Venezuela to "avoid unilateral actions" and on the urgency of putting this dispute back on track through dialogue and peaceful means. The proposal is for both parties to negotiate an exit mediated by CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), currently under the presidency of Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of the Caribbean country Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The demands conveyed by Lula in the conversation were agreed during the Mercosur summit in Rio de Janeiro and signed by Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru. Concern is great within the Brazilian government, which considers Maduro extremely unpredictable, according to diplomatic sources. Lula's irritation with the Venezuelan president is growing because of the danger he poses, since he borders both the Essequibo, the rest of Guyana and Venezuela.
Brasilia has increased the military presence on the border. Maduro's attempt to annex the commodity-rich territory, with an eye on the upcoming presidential election, clashes squarely with the Brazilian's efforts to pave the way for Venezuela's return to regional forums after years of diplomatic isolation.
The announcement that Maduro plans to visit Moscow has caused disappointment and surprise in the Lula government, according to the Brazilian press. Putin's visit sends a clear message days after the U.S. responded with maneuvers in Guyana to Caracas' announcement of annexation. Venezuela is now interested in resuming the agreements for the exploitation of the Delta Platform – near the waters in which Guyana has granted concessions – on which companies such as Chevron and Russia's Rosfnet had already explored for gas extraction in the area with certified reserves of up to eight trillion cubic feet. plans that had been paralyzed more than a decade ago. Putin's visit, which has not yet been confirmed, could have this interest behind it.
Minerals, Oil & Gas
While regional diplomacy continues to mobilize in the face of tensions, Maduro is moving forward internally in his plans. On Friday, he continued to make decisions about the territory, during a street demonstration in celebration of Loyalty Day, created by the ruling party to commemorate the date on which a convalescing Hugo Chávez designated Maduro as his political successor. One of the new measures announced has been the creation of the companies PDVSA Essequibo, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company, and the CVG-Essequibo, as an arm of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana in the disputed territory.
The order has been to start granting licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil and minerals. "Guyana and ExxonMobil will have to sit down and talk with us," Maduro told his supporters. Earlier this week, the Chavista leader had given a three-month deadline to companies that have received concessions from Guyana in the waters to be demarcated to withdraw from the area and begin talks with Venezuela to receive permits.
The Essequibo is part of the Guiana massif, the geological formation that encompasses a good portion of the Amazon territory shared by several countries. The disputed territory, with an area of 160,000 square kilometers, is on the western edge of the Orinoco Mining Arc, an exploitation area of more than 111,800 square kilometers, equivalent to 12% of the national territory. The Orinoco Mining Arc was created by Maduro in 2016 for the exploitation of large reserves of gold, copper, diamond, iron, bauxite and aluminum, among other minerals, a plan that has been questioned by NGOs and organizations such as the UN, due to the serious human rights violations committed in the midst of voracious and uncontrolled exploitation of minerals.
North of the Essequibo, on the Atlantic coast, exploration has found significant oil and gas reserves that Guyana began exploiting at a rate of almost 400,000 barrels per day in early 2023 with plans to reach 1.2 million barrels per day by 2027. Meanwhile, Venezuela has not managed to touch one million barrels per day again, after the deep crisis in which the state oil company entered several years ago due to mismanagement, corruption and international sanctions.
Maduro also signed the decree creating the Integral Defense Zone of Guyana Esequiba, as part of the operational structure that the Venezuelan Armed Forces have implemented throughout the country in recent years. He said that the objective of this instance would be to create protected areas and national parks in part of that territory.
On Friday, the closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council concluded that Venezuela and Guyana must abide by the latest decision of the International Court of Justice, issued two days before the referendum in Venezuela after which this diplomatic crisis has been unleashed. None of the countries should do anything that could aggravate the dispute that the court is trying to resolve, after in 2018 the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, decided to transfer the case to this body, within the framework of the Geneva Agreement.
Venezuela has taken steps that suggest annexation of the territory, but in concrete terms it has not yet happened. Guyana is now preparing to go to the OAS (Organization of American States), an instance in which Venezuela in the time of Hugo Chávez managed to retain the support of the Caribbean countries thanks to the oil agreements, but on the issue of the territorial dispute they support Guyana as a bloc.
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