The Venezuelan government claimed this weekend that a public vote on whether or not to annex a significant part of neighboring Guyana passed by a wide margin. The efforts by the socialist regime could result in an armed conflict which would have serious energy and national security implications for the United States.
Venezuela claims the Essequibo region of Guyana. The region was recently discovered to have a significant deposit of oil. Off the coast of the small South American nation are also likely oil deposits. Venezuela has claimed the territory since the 19th century, which was formally settled via international mediation.
Despite the longstanding border of Guyana, a former British colony, Venezuela claimed that more than 10.5 million citizens voted in the referendum on whether or not to seize the disputed region.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called the referendum a “total success for our country, for our democracy.” He further credited a large voter turnout, despite few independent media reports of actual widespread participation.
BREAKING: Venezuela votes to 'incorporate' disputed territory in neighboring Guyana, according to official results
— BNO News (@BNONews) December 4, 2023
The vote rejected an order from the International Court of Justice for Venezuela not to challenge its smaller neighbor.
The disputed territory represents most of the territory of Guyana and is slightly larger than New York State.
Since the dispute centers around the oil-rich portion of the country and the ocean shelf, there could be significant impacts on the American energy supply. Furthermore, Venezuela is an oil-producing nation from which the Biden administration recently lifted some sanctions.
Should an armed conflict arise in South America, fuel supplies to the United States could be disrupted.
Venezuela has suffered severe economic issues during its two decades of socialist rule. The country has seen much of its middle class flee to other countries and the nation’s currency suffer from hyperinflation.
Furthermore, the current situation carries some similarities to the 1982 war over the Falkland Islands. The unpopular military regime of Argentina challenged British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, called the Malvinas in Argentina. The invasion was initially successful before a British fleet expelled the Argentines from the disputed islands.
In the four decades since the conflict, oil has been discovered off the coast of the Falklands.