On December 3, Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela held a “consultative referendum” over the Essequibo region of Guyana, thereby escalating the existing border controversy into a dangerous border crisis. Voters were asked, among other things, whether they supported incorporating Essequibo as a new Venezuelan state, granting citizenship to current and future residents, and rejecting the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in settling the long-standing border controversy between the two countries.
The international media have generally linked all this to the vast oil and gas deposits being discovered offshore Guyana. Indeed, the latest frenetic bout of saber-rattling by Venezuela began shortly after Guyana received bids for eight of 14 maritime blocks put up for auction.
This brief was prepared by Riyad Insanally, a career diplomat for 31 years who last served as Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States of America and Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States. Ambassador Insanally participated as a panelist at the XXXII La Jolla Energy Conference and discussed these issues. This brief expands upon his insights and commentary at the conference.