The century-old dispute between Venezuela and Guyana over the sovereignty of Essequibo, a territory in northeastern South America, has reignited tensions in recent weeks. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has called for a referendum on December 3 to reaffirm its rights over Essequibo, a territory currently controlled by Guyana. Venezuela is seeking to annex Essequibo, which constitutes two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. The area is rich in mineral resources, including bauxite, gold, diamonds, and manganese, with alleged reserves of uranium, oil, and natural gas.
Guyana has rejected the referendum and sought an emergency order from the International Court of Justice to halt the popular consultation. The conflict has escalated, with Venezuela accusing Guyana of dispossessing the area and Guyana asserting that Venezuela would be annexing its rightful territory.
The renewed tensions stem from Venezuela’s economic decline, prompting the government to focus on the country’s mineral-rich resources, including the Mining Arc in the southeast. The conflict escalated further in 2015 when American oil company ExxonMobil discovered a significant oil deposit in the Atlantic Ocean near Guyana. Guyana has since seen a substantial increase in oil production and potential economic growth.
In the midst of these tensions, Guyana remains committed to safeguarding its territorial integrity, while Venezuela has expressed its desire to “recover” the region. Despite the escalating conflict, experts believe that open conflict between the two countries is not imminent.