Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro has instructed state-owned businesses to promptly initiate the exploration and extraction of oil, gas, and minerals in Guyana’s Essequibo region. This territory, which is bigger than Greece and abundant in natural resources, is claimed by Venezuela as their own.
The declaration was made one day after Maduro declared himself the winner of a referendum held over the weekend to determine whether or not to assert control over the territory.
Maduro stated that he would promptly issue operating licenses for oil, gas, and mining activities in the entire region of Essequibo.
He additionally mandated the establishment of domestic branches for Venezuelan government-owned corporations, such as the oil company PDVSA and the mining corporation Corporación Venezolana de Guayana.
Venezuelans voted in favor of a referendum, proposed by Maduro, to assert control over Essequibo on Sunday.
Venezuela has claimed for a considerable amount of time that the land, which makes up two-thirds of Guyana, was taken during the drawing of the border over one hundred years ago. However, Guyana views the referendum as a move towards taking control of their country and the vote has caused tension among its citizens.
The country of Guyana has rejected the referendum as a justification for taking control of the land. They sought help from the International Court of Justice, the highest court of the United Nations. On Friday, the court ordered Venezuela to refrain from making any changes to the current situation until a decision is made on their conflicting claims, a process that could potentially last for several years.
There were reports that voting stations across the country were largely quiet on Sunday as most voters shunned the issue. The turnout appeared so underwhelming that the Venezuelan government has been widely accused by analysts of falsifying the results.
According to Guyana’s foreign secretary, Venezuelans have delivered a powerful message to Maduro on Monday. Sources within Guyana’s government informed the Guardian that they were relieved by the unexpectedly low attendance.
The information in this report was provided by the Associated Press.