March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination




THE CONTEXT: Venezuelan electoral authorities recently claimed that 95% of voters in a nonbinding referendum approved of the nation’s territorial claim on a huge chunk of neighbouring oil-rich Guyana.


  • The recent nonbinding referendum in Venezuela, purportedly showing an overwhelming approval for the nation’s territorial claim over a significant portion of oil-rich Guyana, has ignited both domestic enthusiasm and regional apprehensions.
  • President of Venezuela hailed the outcome as a significant victory, emphasizing historical entitlements and the pursuit of what he deems rightfully belongs to Venezuela—the oil-rich Essequibo territory governed by Guyana.


  • Guyana, a small country in South America, has recently become known for its significant oil reserves.
  • Over the past decade, it has been discovered that Guyana has huge amounts of oil and gas under its coastal waters, with reserves of about 11 billion barrels of oil.
  • This discovery has the potential to transform the Guyanese economy, with the country experiencing rapid growth and the expectation of substantial oil revenues in the coming years.
  • However, there are concerns about whether Guyana is prepared to manage this influx of wealth, and there are also questions about the potential impact on the country’s democracy, economy, and environment.
  • Additionally, Guyana has been involved in a long-standing territorial dispute with Venezuela, which has further complicated the situation regarding its oil-rich resources.


  • Recently, there has been a referendum regarding the disputed oil-rich territory between Guyana and Venezuela.
  • The referendum, held in Venezuela, asked voters whether they supported establishing a state in the Essequibo region, granting citizenship to its population, and incorporating it into Venezuelan territory.
  • The “yes” vote in the non-binding referendum was 95% according to officials.
  • However, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had warned Venezuela against “annexation” of the territory called Essequibo, which has long been ruled by Guyana.
  • Guyana considers the referendum a step toward annexation, and the vote has its residents on edge.
  • The referendum took place on December 3, 2023, and more than 10.5 million out of 20.7 million eligible voters cast their ballots.
  • Venezuelan President claimed the referendum as a total success for his country and democracy.
  • However, the low turnout during the referendum was noted, with long lines typical of electoral events not forming outside voting centers.
  • The outcome of the referendum and its potential implications for the territorial dispute between Guyana and Venezuela remain uncertain.

Regional Reactions and Geopolitical Tensions:

  • The tensions heightened following Guyana’s oil exploration initiatives and a substantial oil discovery, likened in reserves to Kuwait.
  • The contest over this territory has implications for oil resources and geopolitical power in the region.
  • Guyana’s assurance of border security and the solidarity demonstrated by its citizens underline the gravity of this dispute and its implications for regional stability.

Legal Disputes and International Involvement:

  • Venezuela contends that the Essequibo River represents the natural border between the countries, dating back to Spanish rule, while Guyana upholds the border established during the British colonial era, validated by 1899 arbitration court.
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) validated Guyana’s claims, but Venezuela proceeded with the referendum despite calls from the ICJ to refrain from actions affecting the disputed territory.

Current Situation and Future Implications:

  • The outcome of the referendum, though nonbinding, fuels geopolitical tensions and concerns about regional stability.
  • The contentious claims over the territory, coupled with its substantial oil reserves, underpin the high stakes involved for both nations and their neighbouring regions.
  • This ongoing dispute highlights the complexities of historical claims, legalities, economic interests, and geopolitical maneuvering, indicating the need for diplomatic dialogue and international cooperation to navigate through this sensitive issue without escalating tensions or jeopardizing regional stability.


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