96 percent Venezuelans vote in favor of annexing oil-rich territory in Guyana to Venezuela | Abroad

An overwhelming majority of Venezuelans want the oil-rich Essequibo region in neighboring Guyana to become Venezuelan. The area in question covers two-thirds of Guyana. In a referendum on Sunday, 95.93 percent of voters voted in favor, the National Electoral Council said. More than 10 million Venezuelans voted, more than a third of the total population.

With the referendum, Venezuela is already taking an advance on the outcome of a legal dispute before the International Court of Justice in The Hague about the disputed area. The Court did not respond to Guyana’s request to ban the referendum, but did ask Caracas not to take measures that could increase tensions.

On social media, opponents of the authoritarian-led government in Caracas dispute the high turnout figures.

New oil discovery

The dispute between the two countries has been going on for much longer and in 1899 an arbitration committee determined that Essequibo belonged to Guyana. But Venezuela has maintained that the Essequibo River has been its eastern border since 1777, when Venezuela was a Spanish colony.

Guyana recently announced a new oil discovery in the Essequibo of more than ten billion barrels. The first finds date from 2015. The new find has escalated the matter further.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro addresses his supporters after the referendum. © AP