Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday ordered the country's state-owned companies to “immediately” begin to explore and exploit the oil, gas and mines in Guyana's Essequibo region, a territory larger than Greece and rich in oil and minerals that Venezuela claims as its own.
The announcement came a day a day after Maduro got the victory he sought in a weekend referendum on whether to claim sovereignty over the region.
Maduro said he would “immediately” proceed “to grant operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mines in the entire area of our Essequibo.” He also ordered the creation of local subsidiaries of Venezuelan public companies, including oil giant PDVSA and mining conglomerate Corporación Venezolana de Guayana.
Maduro’s announcement comes a day after Venezuela's electoral authorities announced that the five questions with which the government wanted to claim sovereignty over Essequibo were approved in Sunday’s referendum.
Venezuela has long argued that the oil and mineral-rich territory was stolen from them when the border with present-day Guyana was drawn more than a century ago.
Guyana has denounced the referendum as pretext to annex the land. It had appealed to the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ top court, which on Friday ordered Venezuela not to take any action to change the status quo until the panel can rule on the two countries’ competing claims, which could take years.
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