Venezuela’s Vice President Delcy Rodríguez accused Guyana’s president Irfaan Ali of following mandates from Exxon Mobil Corp. and the U.S. Southern Command regarding claims to the disputed Essequibo territory located between the two South American countries.

Rodríguez, speaking on Oct. 31 during a Venezuelan state television broadcast, said Ali is turning his back on negotiations mandated by a Geneva Agreement in 1996.

“The 1899 arbitration award set the limits of territorial dispossession against Venezuela because there was fraud led between the British Empire and the U.S.—…a ruling that was made without Venezuelan representation,” Rodríguez said. “[Ali] follows a script to the letter created by Exxon Mobil to sow a confrontation between two neighboring countries to rob Venezuela’s resources.”

Venezuelan claims on the onshore and offshore Essequibo territory covers portions of the prolific Stabroek deepwater block where Exxon Mobil leads a consortium including Chevron Corp., which recently acquired Hess Corp. in a $53 billion all-stock deal, and China’s CNOOC.


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Stabroek covers 6.6 million acres, or 26,800 sq km, and holds over 11 Bboe of estimated gross discovered recoverable resources. Six floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels with a gross capacity of over 1.2 MMbbl/d are expected to be online by the end of 2027, and there is potential for up to 10 FPSOs to develop the resources, according to Exxon and Hess.

And last week, the consortium announced further successful results at the Lancetfish-2 appraisal well, which found 125 ft of net oil pay in appraisal reservoirs and approximately 65 ft of net oil pay in a new discovery interval, Hess said Oct. 25 in a press release.

Exxon, which once operated in Venezuela, departed the OPEC country in the mid-2000s over disputes with the then Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez over his mandate that state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) take on a majority stake in operations that belonged to Exxon, as well as other international oil companies.


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For its part, U.S. Southern Command, one of 11 unified combatant commands within the U.S. Department of Defense, is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations and security cooperation in Central America, South America and the Caribbean (except U.S. commonwealths, territories and possessions).

“Border issues are for governments and appropriate international organizations to address,” Exxon Mobil media relations advisor Michelle Gray told Hart Energy.

Officials with Southern Command didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comments from Hart Energy.

Essequibo territory referendum

Venezuela will hold a referendum on Dec. 3 to allow its citizens to vote on issues related to prior court decisions related to the disputed Essequibo territory.

The referendum will allow Venezuelan citizens to “join the fight that the national government is promoting in defense of the territory that for historical reasons belongs to Venezuela,” Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro said Oct. 31 during his “ConMaduro+” national television broadcast.

“You, Mr. President of Guyana, [are] an instrument of the Southern Command and a politician on an Exxon Mobil salary. [You will] not get your way,” Maduro said.

Importantly, Maduro says the referendum will judge public sentiment to back his plans to safeguard the Essequibo territory “by any means, according to/with the law.”

OAS and Caricom reactions

Guyana’s Prime Minister Mark Phillips, speaking during an address to the Organization of American States (OAS), said Venezuela’s claim to the Essequibo poses a direct threat to Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Guyana’s Department of Public Information (DPI) said in a Nov. 1 press release.

Members of the intergovernmental organization Caribbean Community (Caricom), as well as the U.S. and Brazil, have announced unwavering and unequivocal support for Guyana as well as for a peaceful settlement of the controversy in accordance with international law.

“Essequibo is ours, every square inch of it. The 1899 Arbitral Award made it clear that it was a full and final settlement,” Guyana’s President Ali said during a speech broadcast Oct. 30 by the DPI. “We are lawful and peaceful people. We respect international law, and that is where this controversy, raised by Venezuela, must be settled.”

Caricom, an organization of twenty countries—15 member states and five associate members—is clearly alarmed by statements coming out of Venezuela and its ruling party officials.

“Two of the questions approved to be posed in the referendum, if answered in the affirmative, would authorize the government of Venezuela to embark on the annexation of territory, which constitutes part of Guyana, and to create a state within Venezuela known as Guyana Essequibo,” Caricom said Oct. 25 in a press release.

The two questions Caricom is referring to seek an affirmation and implementation of Venezuela’s stance on the issue “by all means, according to/with the law.” Caricom said the language used in the referendum’s questions could be perceived by “reasonable persons to conclude that ‘by all means,’ includes means of force or war.”

The Caricom Secretariat office, with headquarters in Georgetown, Guyana, remains supportive of the judicial process to solve the long-standing territorial dispute. International law strictly prohibits the government of one state from unilaterally seizing, annexing or incorporating the territory of another state, Caricom said.

Caricom said in the press release that it “hopes that Venezuela will engage fully in that process before the International Court of Justice, which has determined that it has the jurisdiction in the case brought before it to determine the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award which Venezuela questions. The court’s final decision will ensure a resolution that is peaceful, equitable and in accordance with international law.”