Esquibo referendum in Venezuela and tensions with Guyana – breaking news

Voting began in Venezuela at 6 a.m. (11 a.m. Italian time) to hold a consultative referendum organized by the government of President Nicolas Maduro, regarding sovereignty over the Essequibo region, currently under the administration of Guyana, and claimed by Caracas.

From Dubai, where he is attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), the President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, called on the parties to “allow common sense to prevail” and resolve the crisis that could generate a conflict in South America linked to important energy. Mineral and natural resources in which its lands are rich. Based on these concerns, Brazil sent a large military contingent to its northern border with the two rival countries.

More than 20.6 million Venezuelans will be able to express their opinions until 6 p.m. on five questions formulated in the referendum, one of which concerns the approval of the creation of a state called Guyana Esquipa, to be integrated into the Venezuelan Federation. To ensure a normal day, the government mobilized more than 400,000 men including the armed forces and police.

On December 1, at the initiative of Guyana, the International Court of Justice in The Hague asked Venezuela “to refrain from initiatives that could modify the situation prevailing in the disputed territories,” but did not place restrictions on the referendum, as desired by Georgetown. .

For decades the dispute remained almost forgotten, but it resurfaced in 2015, when the US company ExxonMobil discovered large oil reserves in the region.

Guyana claims its rights in Eskibo under an 1899 arbitration award granting it sovereignty over the territory (which was then under UK rule), while Caracas defends the bilateral agreement reached in Geneva in 1966 as a mechanism to resolve the dispute.

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