The area in question, the densely forested Essequibo region, amounts to about two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory and is roughly the size of Florida.
- Venezuela has long claimed the land, which it argues was within its borders during the Spanish colonial period.
- Guyana has called the move a step towards annexation and an “existential threat.”
What’s next: It’s unclear what steps the Venezuelan government would take to follow through on the result, and any attempt to assert a claim would certainly be met with international resistance.
- The escalating rhetoric has prompted troop movements in the region and saber-rattling in both countries, drawing comparisons from Guyanese leaders to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Even without implementing the referendum, which would require further constitutional steps and the likely use of force, President Maduro may stand to gain politically from the vote amid a challenging re-election campaign.