Latin American media are citing Brazilian intelligence as saying that Venezuela is preparing to invade Guyana in the coming days as a dispute over the oil-rich territory of Essequibo intensifies.
Reports of alleged preparations for an invasion of Guyana cannot be independently verified, and for the time being, they exist are media rumors attributed to Brazilian intelligence sources.
Essequibo lies between Guyana and Venezuela, with both claiming sovereignty, while Venezuela is planning a referendum on Sunday to determine the territory’s ownership future.
The 61,000+ square mile territory equates to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory and is also the site of a string of huge offshore oil discoveries by Exxon. Those discoveries, the first of which was announced in 2015, have re-invigorated Venezuela’s claim on the territory.
The Sunday referendum has residents of Essequibo living in fear over what may happen in its aftermath, the Associated Press reports.
Compounding tensions, on Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is scheduled to hand down its decision on Guyana’s request for “provisional measures” that could prevent Venezuela from holding the referendum on Sunday.
Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro has accused the U.S. of trying to appropriate its oil resources with regard to Guyana’s offshore oil discoveries and production, alleging that Washington plans to militarize the area.
At stake is the world’s most alluring offshore frontier oil play, where Exxon controls the 6.6 million acre Stabroek Block, which has to date seen more than 30 world-class oil discoveries containing more than an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil resources.
Earlier in November, Exxon started production from its Payara project in the Stabroek Block and will increase Guyana’s crude oil production to 620,000 barrels of oil per day. Exxon’s third FPSO, Prosperity, has started up ahead of schedule and will add 220,000 bpd, Exxon said. The original deadline for the FPSO was the first half of next year as new wells came online.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com