Guyana Consents to Dialogue with Venezuela Amid Territorial Conflict, Following Brazil and Other Nations’ Pressure

by Andrew Wright
Guyana-Venezuela dispute

Under the influence of Brazil and the Caribbean trade group, Guyana’s government agreed on Sunday to engage in direct talks with Venezuela regarding their intensifying territorial conflict.

This longstanding dispute, dating back over a century between the two South American countries, has been reignited due to the recent discovery of significant oil reserves in Guyana. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s administration, through a referendum, asserted its claim over the Essequibo region, which comprises two-thirds of Guyana and is located near substantial offshore oil fields.

Amid the buildup of military forces along the Venezuela-Guyana border, Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali announced on Sunday that his nation would participate in a meeting on the island nation of St. Vincent in the Eastern Caribbean on Thursday to negotiate the demarcation of the border between the two countries.

However, reaching a consensus may prove challenging given the escalating tensions.

President Ali, in a national address, stated firmly, “Regarding the border controversy, Guyana’s stance remains unwavering.”

Guyana maintains that the border, established by an international commission in 1899, is legally valid. On the other hand, Venezuela alleges that this demarcation was the result of a land-grab conspiracy, orchestrated by arbitrators from Britain, Russia, and the United States. Venezuelan authorities argue that this was a collusion by Americans and Europeans to deprive their nation of its rightful territory.

On Saturday, the Maduro administration expressed its willingness for dialogue, citing its desire to uphold Latin America and the Caribbean as a peaceful region, free from external interventions.

Venezuela had been advocating for direct bilateral discussions based on a clause in the original agreement, while Guyana insists that the dispute should be resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the United Nations.

President Ali emphasized, “Concerning our border, there can be no compromise. The issue is currently before the ICJ, and that is where it will be resolved. We hope for a prevailing of common sense and a commitment to peace, stability, and an end to the threat of disruption.”

Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent, will preside over the meeting. Brazil, sharing borders with both Venezuela and Guyana and having also mobilized its troops, will participate as an observer.

Guyanese leader Ali also agreed to a direct discussion with Maduro following an urgent gathering of Caribbean leaders on Friday night, where the talks were requested and continued support for Guyana was reaffirmed.

Amidst a surge of nationalism, the Venezuelan government is capitalizing on this dispute to rally support ahead of an upcoming presidential election, particularly among a populace weary from prolonged economic crises leading to widespread poverty.

The Venezuelan government reports that about 10.5 million people, over half of the eligible voters, participated in the referendum. According to official claims, the voters supported the rejection of the 1899 boundary, the incorporation of Essequibo as a Venezuelan state, the provision of Venezuelan citizenship to the residents of the area, and the dismissal of the ICJ’s authority in this matter. However, journalists from Big Big News and observers at the polling stations noted the absence of the usual long queues characteristic of Venezuelan elections.

In 2015, significant oil reserves were discovered off the coast of Essequibo by an ExxonMobil-led consortium, drawing Venezuela’s interest. Venezuela’s commitment to this territorial claim has varied over the years. Guyana’s oil ventures generate approximately $1 billion annually, providing a substantial boost to its economy. Guyana, a nation with nearly 800,000 people, has experienced an economic growth of nearly 60% in the first half of this year.

While Guyana’s oil industry thrives, Venezuela’s has drastically declined. Despite possessing the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves, Venezuela’s oil sector has suffered from extensive mismanagement and economic sanctions imposed on its state-owned oil company after Maduro’s re-election in 2018, widely regarded as fraudulent.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Guyana-Venezuela dispute

What is the core issue in the Guyana-Venezuela territorial dispute?

The dispute centers on the Essequibo region, covering two-thirds of Guyana, intensified by recent significant oil discoveries. Venezuela claims sovereignty, citing historical contentions, while Guyana insists on the legitimacy of a 1899 international boundary decision.

Why are Guyana and Venezuela entering bilateral talks?

Under pressure from Brazil and Caribbean nations, and due to escalating tensions with military buildups and economic interests in oil discoveries, Guyana agreed to discuss the territorial dispute with Venezuela, aiming to resolve the century-old conflict.

What are the positions of Guyana and Venezuela regarding the border?

Guyana views the 1899 international commission’s boundary decision as legal and binding. In contrast, Venezuela considers it a result of a land theft conspiracy involving Britain, Russia, and the United States, and seeks to assert sovereignty over the Essequibo region.

How is the international community involved in the dispute?

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is involved, as Guyana wants the dispute resolved there, contrary to Venezuela’s preference for bilateral talks. Brazil and Caribbean nations are exerting diplomatic pressure, with Brazil also acting as an observer in the discussions.

What impact has the discovery of oil had on the dispute?

The discovery of major oil reserves off Essequibo’s coast by ExxonMobil has reignited Venezuela’s claim over the territory, given the substantial economic benefits of oil, which contrasts with the struggling Venezuelan oil industry amid economic sanctions.

More about Guyana-Venezuela dispute

  • Guyana-Venezuela territorial conflict history
  • Oil discovery and South American geopolitics
  • International Court of Justice and territorial disputes
  • Economic impacts of oil reserves in Guyana and Venezuela
  • Brazil’s role in Guyana-Venezuela talks
  • Maduro government and Venezuela’s political landscape
  • Guyana’s economic growth and oil industry

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LizBethR December 11, 2023 - 2:24 am

The economic angle is fascinating, Guyana’s booming while Venezuela’s just collapsing. what a contrast.

SandraK December 11, 2023 - 9:24 am

its interesting to see Brazil stepping in. I guess they have a lot at stake with their borders and all.

MikeJohnson December 11, 2023 - 9:58 am

wow, didn’t realize how complicated this whole situation was. oil really changes everything, huh?

GregoryT December 11, 2023 - 9:07 pm

Maduro’s government is at it again, trying to grab land that’s not theirs. When will this end?


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