Oil companies operating in Essequibo urged to ignore Venezuela’s ultimatum

Oil companies working under concessions in Guyana’s Essequibo region are encouraged to pay no heed to the ultimatum issued by Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, to withdraw their operations.

During a press conference at the Office of the President on Thursday, Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo said these companies are operating legally, and the government will defend the territory’s sovereignty. 

Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

On December 5, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced administrative measures to annex Essequibo, and gave investors three months to exit Essequibo’s exclusive economic zone.

He has also ordered the state oil company to issue licenses to begin extracting crude in the area.

The Venezuelan president also announced a proposal to the Venezuelan National Assembly for the approval of an ‘organic law’ in defence of Essequibo. 

However, VP Jagdeo said these laws have no bearing on international law. 

“We’re not paying any attention to his law because it has no bearing in international law and definitely will not have any respect or attention from the government and people of Guyana. Any attempts to explore for petroleum by his state oil companies or state companies in our territory will be seen as an incursion by Guyana,” he said.

Dr Jagdeo highlighted that given Venezuela’s current economic standing, the government there has no grounds to announce ‘organic laws’ or ‘social care’ plans for Guyana’s Essequibo region.

“Venezuela has a difficult time finding food for its people. A lot of people fled there. Why would our people want his social attention plan in Essequibo? What could he offer to the residents of Essequibo if not more hardships? People are fleeing his country because of the disastrous economic policies he has pursued and the lack of democracy in that country. Who wants more of that?” he questioned.

The vice president reassured persons living in the border communities that the government would spare no efforts to protect Guyana and its people and urged them not to worry unnecessarily.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued a binding order on Venezuela to “refrain from taking any action” that would jeopardise Guyana’s current control over the Essequibo region. The current status quo has its basis in the 1899 tribunal award which determined the boundary line between Venezuela and British Guiana .

Venezuela continues to openly defy the ruling of the world court.

According to the vice president, any negotiations to resolve the controversy are off the table, as Guyana maintains that the case must be settled through the ICJ.

“We are open to talks anytime with Maduro and his government, but not on that issue. So, if he thinks that the belligerence and threatening Guyana could take us back to the bilateral discussions that he wants, then he is sadly mistaken,” Dr Jagdeo said.