AMERICA/VENEZUELA - Venezuela announces the creation of a Military Zone that includes the area of Guyana claimed by Caracas

Wednesday, 6 December 2023 military  

Caracas (Agenzia Fides) - Yesterday, December 5, the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro announced the creation of the Global Defense Operational Zone ZODI (a sort of military command region) "Guyana Esequiba", covering the region of Guyana that Caracas claims as its own (see Fides, 1/12/2023).
This announcement follows the controversial referendum on December 3, in which 95% of participants voted in favor of including the disputed region in the national territory. Among the five questions that voters had to answer was whether or not Venezuela should reject the 1899 arbitration decision and the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice on the issue (on the history of the international legal dispute, see Fides, 1/12/2023).
They were also asked whether or not Venezuelan citizenship should be granted to the inhabitants of the new "State of Guyana Esequiba", as well as whether the 1966 Geneva Agreement was "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 Esequiba". According to the National Electoral Council, more than half of the 20.7 million voters participated, a figure questioned by the opposition. The announcement of the creation of ZODI follows another in which Maduro ordered the creation of a division of the state oil company PDVSA to "immediately" begin to "grant operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mines" in Guayana Esequiba. At the same time, authorities in Caracas published a map with Venezuela's new borders that encompass the disputed region.
Caracas' moves have caused great concern in Guyana, where yesterday evening, the President of Guyana Irfaan Ali described President Maduro's statements as a "direct threat" to his country. Guyana Esequiba is an area rich in mineral and aquifer resources. Recent discoveries in the area have raised Guyana's oil reserves to about 11 billion barrels, or 0.6% of the world total. The discovery of natural resources has made Guyana one of the fastest-growing countries in the world: it recorded a GDP increase of 57.8% in 2022 and is expected to grow more than 20% this year. Guyana's per capita income has tripled since 2019 thanks to oil exploitation. Guyana expects to produce 1.2 million barrels per day in 2027, which would make it the third largest oil producer in Latin America, even surpassing Venezuela. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 6/12/2023)