Chavismo will put the annexation of Essequibo to a referendum

The Venezuela of Nicolas Maduro claims sovereignty over the Essequibo region, an area that is part of Guyana, the size of which exceeds that of countries such as Greece and is home to vast reserves of oil and other natural resources. After months of tension, Chavismo is preparing to bring its territorial dispute with Georgetown to the polls.

Maduro has called for a non-binding referendum on the territory’s status this Sunday. The vote is intended to pave the way for the Essequibo region to become a Venezuelan state. The five-question referendum will ask voters, among other things, whether current and future residents of the region should be granted Venezuelan citizenship. Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) claims to have adhered to much of the election schedule.

Guyana interpreted the referendum as a clear case of annexation and therefore asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in October to stop parts of the process. The court has held a number of hearings on the matter but has not yet made a ruling.

However, Maduro has made it clear that he wants to go ahead with the vote even though the judiciary rules against him. Venezuela has always considered Essequibo to be its own country since the region was within its borders during the Spanish colonial period, and has long disputed the border decision made by international arbitrators in 1899, when Guyana was still a British colony.

The area of ​​159,500 square kilometers represents two thirds of the South American country. The disputed border was decided by arbitrators from the United Kingdom, Russia and the United States. Washington represented Caracas on the panel in part because the Venezuelan executive had severed diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom.

Venezuela’s territorial claims have fluctuated over the years. Their interest was piqued again in 2015 when ExxonMobil announced it had found oil in commercial quantities off the coast of Essequibo. Chavismo is once again ready to consult a total of 20,694,124 citizens. The Maduro government previously held a mock referendum on November 19 to familiarize voters with the issue, but did not record the number of voters or the results.

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The latest chapter in the dispute has sowed anger against the Guyanese government among Essequibo residents, most of whom are indigenous people. Information about the referendum came mainly through inaccurate social media posts, which only caused confusion.

“We feel abandoned as the people of this country. “Nothing is being done for us at the moment,” he said. Michael Williamsan indigenous leader from the village of Annai, in conversation with Associated Press. “The government (…) only comes if it wants our votes.” Now there is this argument. Nobody is here to tell us: “These are the problems.” That can happen. Let’s prepare for it. We negotiate. We hope for the best.” “No one will come and tell us.”

The residents of Essequibo are excited. “We pray, hope and trust that nothing negative will happen,” he told the North American news agency. Loreen Allicock. “We want to continue to live a peaceful life in our beautiful country.”

A smoke screen

The Vice President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, said that Venezuela was using the referendum as a “distraction from its internal problems,” according to a statement released by Georgetown on Monday. At an event in the town of Anna Regina, northwest of the mouth of the Essequibo River, the Guyanese official described Caracas’ claims to the territory in question as “false and invalid” and that country’s attempts to “invalidate the arbitration award.” of 1899,” which Georgetown defended in the controversy.

Jagdeo said Thursday that they expect a visit from U.S. Department of Defense officials in the near future as part of cooperation Georgetown is exploring with its allies to prepare for any eventuality in the dispute with Venezuela.

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