San Francisco: The simmering tensions between Guyana and Venezuela – aggravated by an offshore oil find – have bubbled over into undiplomatic language with Guyanese officials accusing their bigger neighbour of flagrantly violating international law.
The officials, from Guyana’s recently elected government, were responding to a May decree from Caracas in which Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro announced his country’s intention to annex Guyanese maritime space, including waters where Exxon Mobil discovered a big oil field in May.
The waters in question, and borderlands too, have been disputed territory between the nations since the early 19th century.
Exxon is drilling in the so-called Stabroek Block, around 120 miles off the coast of Guyana, a former British colony.
In April Venezuela warned Exxon Mobil in writing that it would not accept the interference of a multinational company in the disputed territory.
Venezuela already has the world’s largest oil reserves and earns 96 percent of its foreign income from oil.
Although the border row never went away the oil find has given it a new lease of life and that intensified when May elections in Guyana removed the previous governing party, which had much ideological common ground with that of Venezuela.