Guyana-Venezuela border dispute infographic
Graphic shows map and background of the territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana.


Venezuelans approve claim to swathe of Guyana

By Jordi Bou

December 4, 2023 - Venezuelans have approved a referendum called by the government of President Nicolás Maduro to claim sovereignty over an oil-rich swathe of neighbouring Guyana called Essequibo.

Voters rejected the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction over the country’s long-running territorial dispute with neighboring Guyana and backed the creation of a new state in the Essequibo region.

Venezuela's claims on the Esequiba, which have been the source of a long-running territorial dispute, were reignited in recent years after Guyana's discovery of oil and gas near the maritime border.

Guyana, South America’s only English-speaking nation, is the world’s fastest-growing economy, which has quadrupled in size over the last five years thanks to massive offshore oil deposits first drilled by Exxon in 2015.

Its crude reserves are so large relative to its population of 800,000 that some projections show the nation overtaking Kuwait to become the world’s largest per-capita crude producer.

Many analysts see the Essequibo referendum as a tactical response by President Maduro to whip up nationalist fervour ahead of elections in the second half of 2024.

PUBLISHED: 04/12/2023; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images