The disputed territory of Essequibo will become an "integral defense zone" and will become part of the new administrative entity of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro said during a meeting of the federal council of the government.

"The Guyana-Essequibo Integral Defense Zone is being created with three development zones... militarily and administratively dependent on the Integral Defense Region of Guyana," the Venezuelan president said.

Maduro also gave foreign oil companies operating in the undivided waters three months to stop operating in the area.

"I propose that all these companies abandon operations in the sea area subject to delimitation within three months. We are ready for dialogue," the politician said.

Maduro also said state oil company PDVSA and state-owned iron and steel producer CVG would set up units to operate in the new region of the country.

Later, the foreign ministers of Venezuela and Guyana discussed the territorial dispute over Essequibo and agreed to maintain contacts.

In Search of Historical Justice

Recall that on December 3, a referendum was held in Venezuela in defense of Caracas' claims to the territory of Essequibo, which is located in neighboring Guyana. An overwhelming majority of citizens voted in favor of the region's accession to Venezuela.

Guyana has since said that the country will seek help from the UN Security Council if Venezuela takes any steps after the referendum, which Guyana tried to stop with an urgent appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

"Any action or attempt to take any action in accordance with the referendum will result in the need to appeal to the UN Security Council as an aggrieved party," Guyana Attorney General Anil Nandlall was quoted as saying by AFP.

  • Essequibo River
  • AP
  • © Juan Pablo Arraez

He stated that Guyana would invoke Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter, which may imply sanctions or military action to maintain or restore international peace and security.

"Militarily, it (the UN Security Council. "RT) can authorize the use of military force by member states to support the implementation of the International Court of Justice's rulings," Nandall said.

In turn, Guyanese President Irfaan Ali said that the country's armed forces have been put on high alert, and Venezuela has "declared itself an outlaw country."

The situation was also commented on by the US State Department. Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the service, said Washington supports the peaceful settlement of border disputes, but referred to a decision that dates back to the 19th century.

"The 1899 decision defining the land boundary between Venezuela and Guyana must be respected until the parties reach a new agreement or the competent legal authority decides otherwise. We therefore encourage Venezuela and Guyana to continue to seek a peaceful solution to their dispute. This issue cannot be resolved through a referendum," a US State Department spokesman said at a press briefing.

  • © Juanmonino

The dispute over the Essequibo region between Venezuela and neighboring Guyana has been going on since the 19th century. During the War of Independence of the Spanish colonies (which included Venezuela), the region was taken under the control of the British Empire and annexed to Guyana, which was its possession.

We are talking about the territory west of the Essequibo River with a total area of almost 160 thousand square kilometers.

In 1966, after Guyana's independence from Great Britain, the parties to the dispute signed the Geneva Agreement on the need to find a solution, but it was not implemented and the region retained the status of Guyanese territory.

Most of Essequibo is an impenetrable jungle. However, in 2015, significant reserves of gas and oil were discovered there, after which Venezuela again laid claim to the region. In 2018, the Guyanese authorities appealed to the International Court of Justice to confirm their borders, but the lawsuit was accepted for consideration only five years later, in April 2023.

In an interview with RT, the general director of the Hugo Chavez Latin American Cultural Center, Yegor Lidovskoy, explained the reasons for the territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana.

"This territory was occupied by the British Empire, that is, stolen from Venezuela. And Venezuela has never forgotten that. Before British Guyana declared its independence from Great Britain in 1966, they had an agreement with Venezuela to hold peace talks, to create a commission that would establish the boundaries of the disputed territories," the expert explained.

However, this did not happen because the UK exerted political pressure and declared the independence of Guyana along with the occupied territory, he stressed.

"From time to time, passions around Essequibo have flared up before, but most of the time everything was quiet because there was no economic activity there, there was no military presence," the expert said.

However, in 2015, large oil fields were discovered there, concessions for the development of which were issued to Western companies, Lidovskoy said.

Political Solution

According to him, Guyana and some Western countries want to accuse Venezuela of illegal appropriation of territories.

However, the 1966 Geneva Agreement, which was supposed to determine Essequibo's fate, was not implemented. The ownership of this territory was not determined in an agreed and legal way, and it was impossible to conduct any economic activity or deploy military personnel on it," the expert stated.

  • Nicolás Maduro at a rally in support of the referendum on Essequibo
  • AP
  • © Matias Delacroix

According to the expert, now the situation is not at the stage when it is possible to talk about any conflicts. Venezuela has not taken any steps that would demonstrate its intention to use force to resolve the issue, he added.

"All they want is to solve the problem diplomatically. In this situation, it is very difficult to predict a conflict. However, the possibility of a military conflict cannot be completely denied. Theoretically, it is possible. The further development of events depends on whether any provocations against Venezuela will be carried out," Lidovskoy said.

As Alexander Chichin, Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, explained in a conversation with RT, the step of the Venezuelan president is logical, since Essequibo's affiliation with Guyana was not determined by legal means.

"It's not about the occupation of this territory by Venezuela, it's about revisiting this issue. In the meantime, Maduro wants to introduce preliminary measures, such as ending the concession toExxonMobil, so that the discussion of this issue can begin again," the expert said.

There is no talk of any military consequences for the region in connection with the decision of Caracas, the interlocutor of RT explained.

"This is a political issue. It is simply a revision of the colonial realities that were established by the Western powers back in the 19th century. What Maduro is doing is repairing the legacy left there by Britain. In addition, there is the issue of the local Indian population, which has remained virtually unchanged in Guyana since colonial times. And this topic is also raised by Maduro," Chichin explained.

Now Venezuela has an opportunity to resolve this issue, since the United States is now dependent on Venezuelan oil - in October, Washington eased sanctions against the country's oil and gas sector, the political scientist recalled.

"Relations with the U.S. have normalized since the Trump administration. Relations with neighboring Colombia have also stabilized. Venezuela's interests are clear to the leaders of neighboring countries. Maduro feels quite confident inside the country as well. He is preparing for next year's elections and this is also a good starting point for him," the expert said.

At the same time, the statement of the President of Venezuela about his readiness for negotiations on the issue of oil production indicates that he agrees to a compromise solution, Chichin stressed.

"A military solution to this issue is not required. And this is not Maduro's goal. He can simply act by quite legal methods, since the status of the territory is not determined. He can fish there himself without recognizing the area as Guyana territory. This will be quite enough," the expert said.