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US joint maritime venture with Guyana in disputed oil-rich waters provokes anger from Venezuela

THE US Coast Guard (USCG) carried out joint operations with Guyana on Saturday in waters contested by Venezuela.

The Guyana Defence Force and USCG vessel Cutter Stone carried out a patrol just off the coast of Guyana in the part of the North Atlantic known as the Stabroek Block — oil-rich waters which are claimed by Caracas.

The highly provocative move comes after a so-called shiprider agreement — ostensibly for joint patrols to stop the movement of drugs — was signed with Guyana by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in September 2020, as he toured the region in an attempt to build support for regime change in Venezuela.

The deal came soon after Exxon Mobil announced that it was ramping up crude oil production in the contested waters, despite a century-long border dispute currently being evaluated by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

But the first session of the new Venezuelan Parliament last Thursday condemned the ICJ ruling in December that the court has jurisdiction over the lines of demarcation between the two nations, as parliamentarians defended Venezuela’s sovereignty over the disputed Essequibo region.

A Bill presented by lawmaker Diosdado Cabello, approved unanimously, reiterated Venezuela’s position that the UN’s Geneva Agreement of 1966 was the only mechanism that could determine the border, which was established in 1899.

President Nicolas Maduro called on UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres to revive talks with Guyana as a way of resolving the matter.

Guyana has no history of oil production, but it could become one of Latin America’s biggest producers if a decision on the border goes in its favour.

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