At U.N., Guyana blasts Venezuela over century-old border spat

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 29, 2015 2:23 PM

By Hugh Bronstein

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Guyana used the United Nations as a forum to blast Venezuela on Tuesday, accusing the neighboring oil powerhouse of "intimidation and aggression" related to a border dispute two days after the countries agreed to restore diplomatic ties.

In his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Guyana's president David Granger accused his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, of cross-border bullying.

"There has been a series of acts of aggression by presidents of Venezuela against my country," Granger said, citing actions dating from 1968 to "President Nicolas Maduro's decree of May 2015."

The decree created a theoretical "defense" zone offshore that would, in Venezuela's eyes, leave Guyana with no direct access to the Atlantic Ocean.

Granger said Venezuela was four times as big as the former British colony and its armed forces were more than 40 times as big as Guyana's Defense Force.

He said Venezuela, "mindful of its superior wealth and military strength and unmindful of its obligation as a member state of the United Nations ... has pursued a path of intimidation and aggression."

A Venezuelan government representative was not immediately available for comment.

Maduro withdrew his country's ambassador to Guyana in July after demanding a halt to oil exploration by Exxon Mobil Corp off the coast of a region known as the Essequibo. In September, he yanked accreditation for Guyana's ambassador to Venezuela.

On Sunday, Maduro said the countries would restore their respective ambassadors after meeting with Granger and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York.

Exxon in May said it had found oil in an area known as the Stabroek Block under a license granted by Guyana's government. The company has declined to comment on the dispute.

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The Essequibo, a sparsely populated region of thick jungle, encompasses an area equivalent to around two-thirds of Guyana's territory and functions in practice as part of Guyana.

Guyana says Caracas agreed to relinquish the Essequibo following a ruling by an international tribunal in 1899, but that Venezuela later backtracked on that decision.

Venezuela says the 1899 ruling was unfair and insists the territory is still in dispute. Maps in Venezuela usually describe the Essequibo as the "reclamation zone."

Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)