Venezuelans Approve a Referendum to Claim Sovereignty Over a Swathe of Neighboring Guyana

Venezuelans Approve a Referendum to Claim Sovereignty

Venezuelans Approve a Referendum to Claim Sovereignty, On December 3, 2023, Venezuelan electoral authorities announced that 95 percent of voters in a nonbinding referendum accepted the country’s territorial claim to a large portion of neighbouring oil-rich Guyana.

Venezuelans Approve a Referendum to Claim Sovereignty

Venezuelans Approve a Referendum to Claim SovereigntyVenezuelans backed a referendum organised by President Nicolás Maduro’s government on Sunday to claim sovereignty over an oil and mineral-rich area of neighbouring Guyana, the country’s electoral office reported, as Venezuelans approve a referendum to claim sovereignty.

Even though few voters were spotted at polling centres during the five-question referendum’s voting session, the National Electoral Council claimed to have counted more than 10.5 million votes. However, the council did not specify whether the number of votes was equivalent to a voter or the aggregate of each answer.

Venezuela has long claimed that the region was taken from them when the border was drawn over a century ago. Guyana, on the other hand, sees the referendum as a step towards annexation, and the vote puts its citizens on edge.

Venezuelan voters were asked if they supported establishing a state in the disputed territory known as Essequibo, granting citizenship to current and future residents, and rejecting the United Nation’s highest court’s jurisdiction in resolving the dispute between the South American countries.

Members of Venezuela’s Armed Forces stand in Caracas

Members of Venezuela’s Armed Forces stand in Caracas, Venezuela, on the day of an electoral referendum on Venezuela’s rights to the possibly oil-rich territory of Esequiba, which has long been the subject of a boundary dispute between Venezuela and Guyana, on December 3, 2023.

“It has been a total success for our country, for our democracy,” Maduro told supporters gathered in Caracas, the capitalMembers of Venezuela's Armed Forces stand in Caracas after the results were released, before emphasising the “very important level of participation of the people” in the referendum.

Long lineups, characteristic of electoral events, did not develop outside voting centres in Caracas on Sunday. Nonetheless, just before the 12-hour voting period was set to finish, the country’s top electoral authority, Elvis Amoroso, declared that polls would remain open for two more hours due to “massive participation.”

If Amoroso’s figure relates to voters, it means that more people voted in the referendum than for Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s mentor and predecessor, when he was re-elected in the 2012 presidential election. However, if it is equal to each answer marked by voters, turnout might fall as low as 2.1 million.

Diosdado Cabello, Deputy of Venezuela’s National Assembly, gestures as he talks after the National Electoral Council revealed the results of the consultative referendum on Venezuelan sovereignty over the Essequibo in Caracas on December 3, 2023.

Diosdado Cabello, Deputy of Venezuela’s National Assembly, gestures as he talks after the National Electoral Council revealed the results of the consultative referendum on Venezuelan sovereignty over the Essequibo in Caracas on December 3, 2023.

Maduro informed supporters who were cheering the results that he voted in just 15 seconds early Sunday.

The International Court of Justice instructed Venezuela on Friday not to take any action that may jeopardise Guyana’s jurisdiction over Essequibo, but the justices did not specifically prohibit officials from holding the five-question vote on Sunday. Guyana had requested that the court force Venezuela to halt portions of the election.

The Venezuelan Armed Forces Stand on the day of an Electoral Referendum

the Venezuelan Armed Forces stands on the day of an electoral referendumOn December 3, 2023, a member of the Venezuelan Armed Forces stands on the day of an electoral referendum on Venezuela’s rights to the possibly oil-rich territory of Esequiba in Caracas, Venezuela.

even though the practical and legal implications of the referendum are unknown, international court president Joan E. Donoghue stated in comments explaining Friday’s verdict that statements from Venezuela’s government indicate it “is taking steps intending to acquire control over and administer the territory in dispute.”

“Furthermore, 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,'” she went on to say.

The 61,600-square-mile (159,500-square-kilometer) territory borders Brazil, whose Defence Ministry stated earlier this week in a statement that it has “intensified its defence actions” and increased its military presence in the region as a result of the disagreement.

Essequibo is larger than Greece and rich in minerals. It also provides access to an area of the Atlantic where energy giant ExxonMobil discovered significant quantities of oil in 2015, attracting the attention of Maduro’s regime.

For weeks, Venezuela’s government marketed the referendum, portraying participation as an act of patriotism and frequently confusing it with a display of support for Maduro.

Venezuela has traditionally regarded Essequibo to be its territory because it was within its borders during the Spanish colonial period, and it has long disputed the border established by international arbitrators in 1899 when Guyana was still a British colony.

Arbitrators from the United Kingdom, Russia, and the United States determined that boundary. The United States represented Venezuela on the panel in part because the Venezuelan government had severed diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom.

President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Meets Supporters

President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Meets SupportersNicolás Maduro, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, meets supporters before delivering a statement in Caracas on December 3, 2023, as the National Electoral Council announced the results of the consultative referendum on Venezuelan sovereignty over the Essequibo.

Venezuelan officials claim that Americans and Europeans plotted to deprive their country of the territory, and they claim that a 1966 deal to settle the case effectively annulled the initial arbitration.

Guyana, South America’s only English-speaking country, insists that the first agreement is legitimate and enforceable, and sought the International Court of Justice to rule on it in 2018, although a ruling is still years away.

On Sunday, voters were asked if they “agree to reject by all means, following the law,” the 1899 boundary and whether they support the 1966 agreement “as the only valid legal instrument” to reach an agreement.

“I came to vote because Essequibo is ours,” trader Juan Carlos Rodrguez, 37, said after voting at a Caracas centre where only a few people were in the queue.

Maduro had thrown his entire government’s weight behind the attempt. Essequibo-themed music, nationally televised history lessons, murals, rallies, and social media content aided the government in diverting people’s attention away from pressing issues, such as increasing US pressure on Maduro to release political prisoners and wrongfully detained Americans, as well as ensuring free and fair conditions in next year’s presidential election.

During an Associated Press tour of Caracas voting centres, lineups of around 30 people were spotted at some of them, while voters did not have to wait at all at others. In contrast, in previous elections, hundreds of people congregated outside voting booths from the start.

Angela Albornoz, a ruling party grassroots organiser, told the Associated Press that she expected between 23% and 24% of the electors assigned to her voting centre to vote on Sunday. Albornoz, 62, said the figure fell short of her expectations for an event aimed at uniting all Venezuelans “regardless of politics.”

Guyana President Mohamed Irfaan Ali sought to soothe Guyanese worried about the vote on Sunday, saying them they have “nothing to fear over the next number of hours, days, and months ahead.” He stated that Guyana uses diplomacy as its “first line of defence” and is constantly fighting to guarantee that its boundaries “remain intact.”

“I want to advise Venezuela that this is an opportunity for them to show maturity, an opportunity for them to show responsibility, and we call upon them once more join us in … allowing the rule of law to work and to determine the outcome of this controversy,” Ali said in a statement.

 

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