Venezuelan dictator moves to annex territory belonging to neighboring country

According to Venezuelan media, President Nicolas Maduro has officially signed decrees to incorporate the western region of neighboring Guyana, known as Essequibo, into Venezuela.

The head of state ratified a total of six documents, the first of which establishes a National Commission for the Defense of Essequibo. The second decree outlines the creation of the Guayana Esequiba Comprehensive Defense Zone, with an operations center to be located in Tumeremo in Bolivar state.

In addition, Maduro signed a decree facilitating the creation of specialized units within the state oil and gas company PDVSA — PDVSA Essequibo and the Guyana Venezuelan Corporation — CVG Essequibo.

Maduro’s decrees also included the approval of a revised map of Venezuela, officially incorporating the Guayana Esequiba region into its territory to reinforce its claim. To oversee the newly formed state, Major General Alexis Rodriguez Cabello was appointed as the sole head of the 24th state.

The decision follows a consultative, non-legally binding referendum held in Venezuela on December 3, which asked citizens whether the new state of Guayana Esequiba should be created and Venezuelan citizenship extended to its population.

The National Electoral Council declared the result as 95 percent in favour, and Maduro declared the creation of the new state on December 6.

Guyanese President Irfaan Ali responded by stating the nation’s readiness to defend itself against Venezuela’s actions.

Venezuela has been in dispute over the Essequibo territory with Guyana — and its former colonial master the UK — since it won independence from Spain as the short-lived state of Gran Colombia in 1819. An international court ruled in favour of the British claim in 1899, although Venezuela was not represented at the hearing.

Guyana referred the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2018 after Maduro objected to former Guyanese president David Granger granting oil exploration rights off the Essequibo coast to ExxonMobil, the US-French oil transnational previously headed by then-US secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Venezuela has refused to recognize the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the matter.

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