The Exxon proposal to explore for oil in Guyana has the potential to escalate tensions with Venezuela.

The Exxon proposal to explore for oil in Guyana has the potential to escalate tensions with Venezuela.

Despite the potential to increase tensions between Guyana and Venezuela, ExxonMobil remains determined to pursue oil exploration in a disputed region.

The connection between the two nations has deteriorated significantly in recent months due to a string of statements from Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, implying that he may use force to claim the Essequibo region.

Leaders in South America are attempting to ease tensions within the region and concerns about Maduro potentially taking control of the mineral-rich rainforest. However, Exxon’s declaration may reignite the dispute.

“The timing of this announcement could not be more unfortunate,” expressed Geoff Ramsey, a senior member of the Atlantic Council. He added that neighboring countries, particularly Brazil, have been actively striving to reduce tensions and facilitate effective communication between the two governments over the past three months. This development will serve as a significant challenge for regional diplomacy.

Since the 1960s, Venezuela has asserted its ownership of the Essequibo region. Although the case is being examined by the international court of justice, President Maduro’s choice to revisit this longstanding territorial disagreement has been seen as an effort to rally nationalistic backing within the country.

The leader of Venezuela has been the focus of a long-running propaganda effort, stating that his country voted in December to ignore The Hague and reclaim Essequibo, which accounts for two-thirds of Guyanese land.

In December, Guyana and Venezuela had a meeting in Brazil where they came to an agreement not to resort to military action. However, the two parties were unable to reach a permanent resolution to their dispute.

On Monday, Brazil deployed additional soldiers to its border with Guyana and Venezuela, indicating that the issue is still ongoing. The US has also declared this week that it will be fortifying Guyana’s defense by providing new planes, helicopters, drones, and radar technology.

Despite the increasing conflicts, the CEO of ExxonMobil Guyana announced on Tuesday that the company is continuing with its intentions to drill two additional exploratory wells near the Atlantic coast of Guyana.

Alistair Routledge informed journalists that they were not leaving their current location.

In previous instances, Venezuelan troops have compelled Exxon personnel to leave the disputed area. This occurred in 2013 when a Venezuelan naval vessel held one of their crews captive and in 2019 when a Venezuelan military helicopter attempted to land on an Exxon boat.

Routledge’s defiance was echoed by Guyana’s foreign secretary, Robert Persaud, who told the Guardian that the project was of no concern to Venezuela as it will take place in territory internationally recognised as Guyana’s.

Persaud stated that there are no barriers preventing Guyana from utilizing its rights to its globally acknowledged territory and ocean areas. He reassured that they have been and will continue to exercise these rights, as there are no limitations in international law or any agreements that restrict them.