As previewed last week, on Sunday Venezuela would hold a referendum whether Maduro's socialist banana republic should annex the vast majority of its oil-rich neighbor, Guyana (because Venezuela doesn't have enough domestic issues to deal with, it may as well also invade a sovereign nation and start a war). And, as expected, an overwhelming majority of Venezuelan voters who took part in a referendum voted in favor of claiming sovereignty over most of the oil-rich territory of neighboring Guyana.
Per the Venezuelan government, as much as 95% of voters supported the claim, with 10.5 million votes counted, Reuters reported.
The referendum took part despite the fact that the disputed territory—an oil-rich region called Essequibo—is part of an active case at the International Court of Justice, where Guyana is suing Venezuela for trying to take away most of its territory.
As discussed previously, Essequibo lies between Guyana and Venezuela, with both claiming sovereignty over the territory. The 61,000+ square mile territory equates to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory and is also close to 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.
Last month, Guyana asked the International Court of Justice to stop the referendum but the government in Venezuela said they will not recognize the authority of the court.
As OilPrice's Charles Kennedy notes, the Essequibo dispute is not new, to put it mildly, and dates back to the late 19th century when an arbitration court gave control of the territory to Guyana. The dispute flared up as the U.S. lifted oil sanctions on Caracas temporarily in a bid to increase the supply of heavy crude for Gulf Coast refineries, when Biden's appeasement of Maduro gave the Venezuelan dictator the (correct) idea that he has leverage over the senile US president and can thus get away with anything, even annexing sovereign land.
Biden courts Maduro to get a few hundred thousands barrels of oil so his record low approval doesn't drop even more, and now an emboldened Maduro is preparing to annex most of the sovereign state of Guayana https://t.co/75USHVR9WT— zerohedge (@zerohedge) November 30, 2023
In response to the referendum, Guyana’s government said it was "vigilant" and was worried that the referendum is the first step to an annexation of Essequibo by Venezuela. The International Court of Justice ordered Caracas to not take any steps regarding Essequibo but, as expected, the Venezuelan government did not comply.
In confirmation to Guyanese worries, the president of the ICJ said, as quoted by the AP, that “Venezuelan military officials announced that Venezuela is taking concrete measures to build an airstrip to serve as a ‘logistical support point for the integral development of the Essequibo.’”
Still, not everyone is convinced another military conflict is imminent and analysts question whether Venezuela will genuinely seek to annex the territory. They argue the referendum exercise is aimed at bolstering Maduro’s domestic support ahead of elections that Venezuela agreed to hold in exchange for relief from debilitating sanctions imposed by the US.
“Political calculations are driving Maduro to escalate tensions in an attempt to stir up nationalist sentiment, but those same political calculations also limit his military options,” said Theodore Kahn, director for the Andean region at the consultancy Control Risks.
“An actual invasion would shut the door to further negotiations with the US and force the Biden administration to reimpose oil sector sanctions.”
Come to think of it, that's a joke of a deterrent, considering Maduro had no problem living with sanctions for years. If Maduro were to get his grubby hands on some of the most state of the art oil facilities in the world - as a reminder, Guyana is where Exxon has invested billions to extract much of the country's oil- he would do so in a heartbeat.