Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered state-owned oil, gas and mining companies to “immediately” begin operations in a wide territory controlled by neighboring Guyana.
Maduro issued the order Tuesday, two days after Venezuleans voted overwhelmingly to approve a referendum that would annex the 160,000-square kilometer Essequibo region.
Maduro ordered state-owned oil giant PDVSA and mining conglomerate CVG to create local subsidiaries to operate in the region. He also says he will introduce a law in the National Assembly that will officially declare the region a Venezuelan state.
Venezuela has long-claimed the Essequibo region as part of its territory, despite an 1899 decision by an international arbitration panel that placed it within Guyana’s borders. Caracas intensified its claim to the region after ExxonMobil discovered oil there in 2015.
Maduro said that all oil companies granted licenses by Guyana to operate in the Essequibo region have three months to leave.
Sunday’s referendum was held in defiance of the International Court of Justice, which ordered Venezuela not to take any action over the disputed territory until it could rule on the matter.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.