Venezuela maintains its claim to region in Guyana
Venezuela restated its century-old claim to the Essequibo region, whose sovereignty the country is disputing with
Guyana under United Nations arbitration. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jesus Perez raised the issue during a press
conference after the Venezuelan opposition accused President Hugo Chavez of "having sold" Essequibo during the
official visit he made to Georgetown.
"We continue discussions on the dispute with UN mediation and maintain our claim," Perez said, noting that the issue "was never affected" by Chavez's decision "not to oppose" Guyanese government projects in the disputed region, which constitutes roughly two thirds of Guyana.
The Chavez government hopes the measure will serve to "unblock" relations with Guyana and prevent Essequibo's
becoming a "no-man's land" where drug trafficking and terrorism flourish.
Venezuela has claimed the Essequibo since the 19th century, when the territory was awarded to then-British Guiana by an international arbitration court made up of twojudges each from Britain and the United States and one from Russia.
In 1966, shortly before Guyana gained independence, representatives of Britain, Venezuela and the Guyanese signed an
agreement in Geneva establishing mechanisms for reaching a "practical solution" to the controversy. After years with
no progress, Caracas and Georgetown submitted the dispute in 1983 to the office of the UN secretary-general for
arbitration under the terms of the 1966 accord.
Aside from Kashmir, object of a decades-long struggle between India and Pakistan, the Essequibo is the largest territory in the world under dispute by two countries; it boasts vast reserves of oil, minerals and timber.