Venezuela holds referendum over Essequibo land dispute with Guyana

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a rally on December 1 in Caracas ahead of a referendum he hopes will strengthen Venezuela's claim to the oil-rich Essequibo territory controlled by neighboring Guyana

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a rally on December 1 in Caracas forward of a referendum he hopes will strengthen Venezuela’s declare to the oil-rich Essequibo territory managed by neighboring Guyana

CARACAS – Venezuelans started voting Sunday in a referendum the federal government hopes will strengthen its century-old declare to the oil-rich Essequibo territory managed by neighboring Guyana.

“Essequibo is ours!” posters plastered on partitions lining the streets in Caracas, as a part of an intense marketing campaign by the federal government of President Nicolas Maduro, who’s searching for re-election subsequent 12 months.

“Today we’re voting as Venezuela in a single colour, one feeling. Our vote is to respect Venezuela,” Maduro informed reporters after he voted at a navy base.

Voting started at 6 am (1000 GMT) and was as a result of finish at 6 pm (2200 GMT), with outcomes anticipated early Monday morning.

Maduro’s authorities has stated it’s not searching for justification to invade or annex the territory, as some in Guyana, a former British colony, concern.

And regardless of the final result of the vote by some 20 million eligible Venezuelans, little will change within the brief time period: The folks of Essequibo aren’t voting, and the referendum is non-binding.

But tensions have been rising since Guyana accepted bids in September for a number of offshore oil exploration blocks, and after a serious new discovery was introduced in October. Its petroleum reserves are much like these of Kuwait, with the very best reserves per capita on this planet.

Meanwhile, the Maduro authorities has sharpened its rhetoric and carried out navy workouts within the space.

And Brazil has bolstered its personal troop presence close to the border with Venezuela, saying it’s involved a couple of “local weather of pressure.”

Venezuela has claimed the huge territory for years – whilst its 160,000 sq. kilometers (62,000 sq. miles) signify greater than two-thirds of Guyana, and its inhabitants of 125,000 is a fifth of Guyana’s complete.

Caracas argues that the Essequibo River on the jap aspect of the area is the pure border between the 2 international locations, as declared in 1777 underneath Spanish rule, and that Britain wrongly appropriated Venezuelan lands within the nineteenth century.

Guyana, nonetheless, maintains that the border was established within the British colonial period and was confirmed by an arbitration court docket in 1899. It says the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the primary judicial physique of the UN, confirmed this determination.

Guyana requested the ICJ to dam the referendum, saying it was a violation of worldwide rights, however to no avail.

On Friday, the ICJ requested Caracas to not take any motion that may change the disputed lands — however didn’t point out the referendum. And Caracas promised to go forward regardless.

“We imagine that justice, not power, must be the arbiter of worldwide disputes,” Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali stated Friday from the United Arab Emirates, the place he was attending the COP28 worldwide local weather summit.

Ali then met with British Foreign Minister David Cameron to debate the controversy.

Maduro, for his half, hit out at Ali on Friday, calling him “reckless (and) insolent” and suggesting he was working for US vitality large ExxonMobil.

– Five questions –

Sunday’s referendum covers 5 points, together with proposals for the creation of a Venezuelan province to be known as “Guyana Essequibo,” giving residents Venezuelan citizenship, in addition to a name to reject the jurisdiction of the ICJ.

Maduro’s authorities is hoping for a really constructive end result, which is able to strengthen its declare.

Opposition politicians, most of whom help the demand, had been typically hesitant in regards to the referendum.

But Maria Corina Machado, who hopes to oppose Maduro in subsequent 12 months’s presidential elections, known as the referendum “off,” saying it must be suspended and that sovereignty isn’t one thing that ought to authorities to ask about it – “you simply train it. “

Maduro has mobilized his social gathering and senior members of his authorities in a fervent marketing campaign for an unprecedented “sure” vote.

On the streets of Caracas, many Venezuelans stated they’re motivated to vote.

“We have a dedication to the nation,” stated Marlis Palmes, homemaker. “I congratulate those that agree. And let historical past be the decide of the others.”

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