A day before their scheduled meeting, Guyana President Mohamed Irfaan Ali called Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro an “outlaw” who is “acting recklessly” in trying to wrest oil-rich land from Guyana.
In an interview Wednesday with NBC News Now anchor Tom Llamas, Ali reacted to recent comments by Maduro that Venezuela “immediately will proceed to give operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mines in our Guayana Essequibo.”
“President Maduro is reckless in that statement. It shows he is an outlaw,” Ali said.
Venezuela was ordered by the United Nation’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) to refrain from any changes to the status quo in the Essequibo region of Guyana. Maduro claimed sovereignty over neighboring Guyana’s Essequibo region — where oil was found in 2015 — after a questionable referendum. Ali said the issue should be decided by the ICJ.
As Venezuela has threatened to defy the order, the two nations have been moving forces to their shared border.
Maduro and Ali are scheduled to meet Thursday on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent for bilateral talks. But Ali said he plans to state clearly to Maduro that “Essequibo belongs to Guyana. That we are not exiting the ICJ. That there is no, absolutely no, negotiations on the issue of Essequibo.”
Asked if he would give up some land in the Essequibo region, Ali responded “not a single inch.”
“Essequibo belongs to Guyana. We are not giving up a single inch, not even in thought or idea, much less physical,” Ali said.
The interview aired Wednesday on “Top Story with Tom Llamas” at 7 p.m. ET on NBC News Now.
Essequibo has been in Guyana for centuries, when the boundary for the country was drawn by an international commission.
Although the boundary for Essequibo as Guyana territory was drawn in 1899, Venezuela has said the drawing was unfairly drawn by Americans and Europeans. Venezuela’s oil industry has tanked under Maduro’s administration.
Ali said Venezuela’s actions have parallels to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and those in the Western Hemisphere should not allow it.
“We cannot tolerate this type of reckless behavior in the Western Hemisphere. It has no place here,” he said. Maduro has been calling the refusal of Guyana to give up land in the region, which is about two-thirds of the country, an American agenda and imperialism, Ali said.
An Exxon-Mobil consortium first discovered the oil deposits and is the country’s largest producer of oil.
“This is absolute nonsense. Was that imperialism when Exxon was investing in Venezuela. Why wasn’t it imperialist then?” he asked.
Ali said he thinks Venezuela is capable of “acting recklessly and in a manner that can destabilize the peace that exists within this region” but he added, “we are not afraid because we know we are starting on the right side of international law. We’re standing on the right side of history. We’re standing on the right side of facts.”
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