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Venezuela's referendum on Essequibo was 'undemocratic use of democracy,' OAS says

The Organization of American States notes that it will soon hold a meeting to "discuss possible measures to ease this crisis and find solutions that respect international law and regional stability"

HAVANA, December 8. /TASS/. The Organization of American States (OAS) on Thursday called Venezuela's referendum on the sovereignty over the Essequibo region disputed with Guyana "an undemocratic use of democratic processes" and said Caracas' actions threatened stability in the hemisphere.

"The regime of [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro continues to take and promote illegal actions against Guyana, such as the holding of an illegal and illegitimate referendum on December 3, 2023, through which it seeks to annex the Essequibo region. This action was taken not only in blatant disregard of international law and the rulings of the International Court of Justice, but again, with undemocratic use of democratic processes," the organization said in a statement on its website. "The OAS emphasizes the urgency and gravity of the situation related to the aggressive posture of the Maduro regime in Venezuela towards the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, which has escalated and become a matter of grave concern for regional security and constitutes a problem that threatens stability and territorial sovereignty in our hemisphere."

The OAS notes that it will soon hold a meeting to "discuss possible measures to ease this crisis and find solutions that respect international law and regional stability."

In 2017, Venezuela announced its withdrawal from the OAS and was expelled two years later, in accordance with the organization’s charter.

Tensions over Guyana-Essequibo

Venezuela's National Assembly (parliament) on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill on the protection of Guyana-Essequibo within Venezuela on first reading, based on the results of a consultative referendum. The bill provides for the creation of the 24th state of Guyana-Essequibo in the disputed territory. The US on Thursday announced the start of joint air exercises with Guyana's military amid the soaring tensions in the country's territorial dispute with Venezuela.

The dispute between Venezuela and Guyana over the 159,500 square kilometers of territory west of the Essequibo River, called Guyana-Essequibo, has been smoldering for more than 100 years. The territory makes up more than two-thirds of Guyana and is home to 283,000 people of the country’s 800,000-strong population.

The territorial dispute flared up with renewed force following the discovery in 2015 of oil fields containing at least 10 billion barrels of oil and Guyana's decision to grant a concession to ExxonMobil for offshore oil production within no boundaries drawn.

In April, the UN International Court of Justice declared admissible for consideration Guyana's claim against Venezuela for the demarcation of the border between them on the basis of a ruling the court of arbitration pronounced in Paris in 1899, when, under pressure from London, 90% of the disputed territory was transferred on the basis of forged maps to its colony, British Guyana. Venezuela, which recognizes Guyana-Essequibo as its legitimate territory, believes that the conflict is not subject to the jurisdiction of the UN International Court of Justice and insists on demarcation of the borders by means of direct negotiations with Guyana, which is stipulated by the Geneva Agreement of 1966.