What’s a little oil between neighbors? Venezuela-Guyana tensions flare.
By Nick Miroff June 9
The dispute flares up periodically whenever there's something at stake. Only now it's extending out into the ocean.
That's where Exxon Mobil Corp., drilling with a license from Guyana, said it made a significant petroleum discovery last month, 120 miles offshore in an area known as the Stabroek Block.
Venezuela, which has the world's largest proven petroleum reserves, promptly reasserted its claim on the area, in the form of a May 27 territorial decree by President Nicolas Maduro, whose government is in the throes of a deep financial crisis.
The decree rests on Venezuela's long-standing claim to the disputed area on shore, which is equal to roughly two-thirds of Guyana-controlled territory. It encompasses the resource-rich forests and savannas west of the Essequibo River, the largest waterway between South America's mighty Amazon and Orinoco rivers.
Maduro's decree essentially projects Venezuela's claim out into the Atlantic Ocean, calling the area an "operational zone for maritime defense."
On Monday, the clash intensified when the government of newly elected President David Granger issued a statement calling Venezuela's claim a "threat to regional peace and security" and a "flagrant violation of international law."
Guyana's Foreign Ministry warned that any attempt by Venezuela to enforce its claim would be "vigorously resisted."
"It is international law that must reign supreme and not the ambitions of a larger State which wishes to trample upon the rights of a smaller country in order to obstruct the sovereign right of Guyana to develop its natural