Caracas, Dec 4 (EFE) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said Monday he has “a plan” to “restore” the “historical rights” he claims his country has over more than 70% of neighboring Guyana’s territory, but offered no details on a strategy to achieve that goal.
Venezuela and Guyana have been at odds over the territory west of the Essequibo River since before either was an independent country. The Spanish colonial power, at least since the 17th century, fought with the Dutch and later the British over the boundaries between their territories.
The dispute was settled by an 1899 arbitration ruling that favored the United Kingdom, but which Venezuela later repudiated, claiming that it had been issued under British pressure.
On Monday, Maduro said that the “popular mandate has ushered in a new stage in the struggle for our Essequibo Guayana, for which we have a plan, a concept, a vision,” in a public act attended by electoral, parliamentary and government authorities.
The majority of the citizens who participated in the consultation answered “yes” to the five questions, including the last one, which asked if they agreed with the incorporation of the Essequibo territory into Venezuela’s national map, the creation of a new state called Guayana Esequiba, and the implementation of an “accelerated plan” to take care of the population, with the granting of citizenship and identity cards.
The president claimed that the referendum was “binding” under the Venezuelan Constitution, although in practice it has no real effect since the issue being voted on affects not only Venezuela but also Guyana.
Earlier, the National Electoral Council reported a participation of 10,431,907 people in teh referendum, which contrasts with the low turnout that EFE was able to observe at polling stations in Caracas and the northwestern city of Maracaibo, as well as reports from opposition figures and citizens who described a low turnout in other regions. EFE