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Venezuela has accused neighboring Guyana of issuing illegal exploration licenses to oil companies for the Essequibo region which is under dispute between the two countries.
According to Caracas, Georgetown had been issuing “illegal oil concessions ... in a maritime area that is indisputably Venezuelan.”
At the end of last week, Caracas made news when it ordered troops to the border with Guyana, which sounded the alarm on the buildup. Venezuela did not deny it but said it had the right to shore up its borders in response to U.S. military exercises in Guyana toward the end of the year and the presence of a UK anti-narcotics vessel that is in Guyanese waters.
Previously, the Venezuelan government criticized Exxon for depending on the U.S. military for its security and for its exploitation of Guyana’s oil resources.
Speaking of Exxon, the supermajor last week may have contributed to Caracas’ anger at Guyana after it said it had plans to explore for oil and gas in the Essequibo region. Guyana’s foreign secretary Robert Persaud told the AP that Exxon was fully within its rights to explore in that specific place off the coast of the country because “it is within established Guyana waters in a fully demarcated area.”
“We are not going anywhere,” the head of Exxon’s Guyanese operations, Alistair Rudge, said.
Essequibo used to be part of Venezuela during its colonial period, but at the end of the 19th century, an international arbitration gave the land to Guyana, then a British colony. Venezuela has never accepted the arbitration decision, but for most of the time since it was made, it has not acted on its grievance.
The simmering dispute between Guyana and Venezuela escalated at the end of last year when Nicolas Maduro held a non-binding referendum on whether Venezuela should annex the Essequibo region, off whose coasts Guyana’s huge oil discoveries have been made in recent years.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com