The referendum vote taking place in Venezuela, this Sunday (3), to claim the Essequibo region has been uneventful so far, according to Eddy Perez, coordinator of the Center of San Martin de Turumbang, a Venezuelan city close to the claimed region of Guyana .
“Thank God, everything is going well, without any news so far. We will open the polling station and wait for the witnesses to arrive at the polling station,” Perez told the press earlier.
:: Venezuela suffers setback at the International Court in dispute over territory with Guyana ::
In total, just over 20 million citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote, in 15,857 voting centers spread across 335 municipalities in the country’s 23 states, according to the National Electoral Council of Venezuela. Voting began at 6am local time (7am Brasília time) and will end at 6pm (7pm Brasília time).
The defense of the claim to the territory has united opponents and government supporters since it was announced at the end of October. Civil organizations, unions and popular movements also joined the “Essequibo is ours” campaign, holding events in the country’s main cities weeks before the vote.
:: What’s happening in Venezuela ::
José Gregorio Correa, member of the National Assembly, explained that the referendum unites opposition and government supporters in “defense of the territory”. “This consultative referendum is not from the government, it is not from the opposition. It’s not from the government, it’s not from the opposition, it belongs to all Venezuelans. And that’s why one of the ways to defend it is to vote,” he said.
One of the leaders of the Venezuelan opposition, lawyer Antonio Domingo Ecarri Angola, stated that the referendum is an opportunity for “each Venezuelan to make their contribution to continue rescuing a space that is ours”.
::Transnational oil companies and Caribbean countries want the US to ease sanctions on Venezuela::
Ecarri further argued that “it is not just Essequibo that is at risk here, it is the Amacuro Delta that is at risk here, it is our Venezuelan Atlantic façade that is at risk here. And that is why today we all have to make the gesture of exercising our right to participate,” he said at a press conference this Sunday (3).
The pre-candidate for president in the 2024 Venezuelan elections also defended that the allocation of revenue from oil must go through a referendum, just like Essequibo’s demand. “I hope it will be the first of many other referendums, in which we also ask for things and are consulted on things like, for example, how oil revenue in Venezuela is distributed,” he said.
What is the referendum like?
The referendum, called by President Nicolás Maduro’s government, has five questions to which voters can answer “yes” or “no”. These are the questions:
1. Do you agree to reject, by all means, in accordance with the law, the line fraudulently imposed by the Paris Arbitration Award of 1899, which seeks to deprive us of our Essequiba Guyana?
2. Do you support the 1966 Geneva Agreement as the only valid legal instrument to reach a practical and satisfactory solution for Venezuela and Guyana in relation to the dispute over the territory of Guyana Essequiba?
::US promises to ‘strengthen defense’ of Guyana after Venezuela claims border territory::
3. Do you agree with Venezuela’s historical position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to resolve the territorial dispute over Guiana Essequiba?
4. Do you agree to oppose, by all means, in accordance with the law, Guyana’s claim to unilaterally dispose of a sea pending delimitation, illegal and in violation of international law?
5. You agree with the creation of the Guiana Essequiba State and with the development of an accelerated plan of comprehensive care for the current and future population of this territory, which includes, among others, the granting of citizenship and Venezuelan identity card, in accordance with the Agreement of Geneva and International Law, consequently incorporating this State into the map of Venezuelan territory?
Understand the case
With 160,000 km² and around 120,000 inhabitants, the territory of Essequibo is located on the border between Venezuela and Guyana and has been the subject of dispute since the 19th century. However, friction between Caracas and Georgetown over control of the region has intensified. after the discovery of large offshore oil wells on the Essequiba coast.
:: Venezuela and Guyana are experiencing escalating tension due to a dispute over territory on the border; understand the case ::
The Guyanese government handed over concessions to the North American company Exxon Mobil to explore the reserves, which led to dizzying growth in Guyana’s GDP and the discovery of new wells by the US company. According to the company’s projections, there are 11 billion barrels of oil under the waters of the Essequibo and Guyana is expected to exceed production of 1 million barrels per day by 2027.
The operations displeased Venezuela, which claims that the drilling could not be carried out unilaterally by Guyana in a sea that is not yet delimited as it is a disputed territory. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro even accused the Guyanese government of working for the interests of the United States and Exxon Mobil.
Editing: Vivian Virissimo