Europe 1 with AFP // Photo credit: MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP 17:20 p.m., December 09, 2023

Brazilian President Luiz Inacia Lula da Silva urged his Venezuelan counterpart not to take "unilateral measures" that would worsen the situation in the disputed oil-rich Essequibo region. Venezuela has claimed the territory administered by Guyana since the borders with the United Kingdom were established in 1899.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva urged his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro not to take "unilateral measures" that would escalate the border dispute between Venezuela and neighboring Guyana, in a phone call on Saturday. "Lula stressed the importance of avoiding unilateral measures that could worsen the situation" in the disputed oil-rich Essequibo region, the Brazilian presidency said in a statement.

A dispute between the two countries referred to the International Court of Justice

The president of Brazil, which borders the two countries, repeated the "growing concern" of other South American countries who had in a joint statement on Thursday evening invited "both parties to dialogue and the search for a peaceful solution". "If there's one thing we don't want, it's a war in South America," Lula made clear. The discovery of vast oil deposits has reignited the long-standing conflict over Essequibo, a 160,000-square-kilometer territory administered by Guyana, but which Venezuela claims by arguing that the real border is the one dating back to the Spanish empire in 2.

The dispute is being referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN's highest court, which Venezuela does not recognize. Guyana believes that the borders were established in 1899, when the United Kingdom was the colonial power of the Territory. The two countries continue to exchange sharp statements and the UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Friday night, but no comment was received.

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Russia, an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who has supported his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin since the first hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has called for "peaceful solutions acceptable to all". Washington, an ally of Georgetown, affirmed its "unwavering support for Guyana's sovereignty." Venezuela's defense minister has called the U.S. air drills in Guyana a "provocation."

However, analysts believe that the Venezuelan government's nationalist rhetoric on the Essequibo, and the referendum held on Sunday calling for 95% of the union to join Venezuela, according to disputed official figures, are an attempt to manipulate Nicolas Maduro's political politics less than a year before the 2024 presidential election in which he is seeking a third term. Some 3,125 people, or one-fifth of Guyana's population, live in Essequibo, which covers two-thirds of the country's land area.