The people of Venezuela voted in a referendum on Sunday to determine something that could change the security dynamics in South America. Sunday’s referendum conducted by President Nicolás Maduro’s government asked people if they agreed that two-thirds of Guyana belongs to Venezuela. The context of the question lies in the history between the two neighbors with a huge potential to alter the course of the future and have a deep impact on the world, including India.
The bone of contention lies in the densely forested Essequibo region of Guyana, which Venezuela claims as its territory. The Essequibo region accounts for almost two-thirds of Guyana’s territory and its boundaries were set by a ruling of the international tribunal in 1,899, as a British colony. Venezuela has rejected the ruling and claimed the Essequibo region as part of its own territory. The sentiment is rooted deep inside common Venezuelan citizens, who feel that their valid right to the Essequibo region is being denied to them.
Why did Venezuela suddenly raise the heat around the dispute?
The answer to the question is not very complex as recently vast offshore oil fields were discovered in the Essequibo region and it came as a game changer to poverty-stricken Guyana. The picture of the country is changing since the discovery of oil reserves in 2015 after which they are earning around $1 billion in annual government oil revenue. The money is being used for massive infrastructure projects in the country.
Secondly, President Nicolás Maduro is up for election in 2024, and the reclamation of the disputed Essequibo region from Guyana surely sounds like a great campaign point, no matter how far from reality. Some political experts have even pointed out that considering, Maduro’s hunger for power, the Venezuelan President will keep his all options open including an outright invasion.
Guyana’s response to the whole situation has been calm so far, with its President claiming that the threat of annexation is “existential.” The officials in the government of Guyana have drawn parallels with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Impact on the World and India
This is the worst time to witness any more conflicts in the world when Ukraine is fighting invading Russian forces for almost two years now and Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) continue to bomb people in Gaza, in response to the attacks on 7 October. Any conflict in the South American region will not be taken well by the world and both the US and China seem to be united on the issue.
India has recently resumed its oil supply from Venezuela, which was reeling under US sanctions until earlier this year. The Joe Biden administration eased off some sanctions to stop to huge discounts China was getting from Venezuela and since then some Indian companies restarted the oil imports from Venezuela.
When oil prices are already volatile due to the war in the Middle Eastern region and production cuts from OPEC members, another possibility of conflict in an oil-rich nation does no good to anyone including Venezuela.
Source: Live Mint