The residents interviewed for the report live in the Venezuelan city, but travel almost daily through the Brazilian city of Pacaraima, which borders Venezuela, north of Roraima.
Guyana and Venezuela have been disputing the Essequibo region for nearly 200 years. Since 2018, the case has been pending at the International Court of Justice because Guyana appealed to the court because it did not believe it would be better able to negotiate in a conciliatory manner with Venezuela.
Now, the issue is back in the spotlight again because Nicolas Maduro has called for the referendum on Essequibo to be held on Sunday (3). (Understand below). On the Brazilian side, the Ministry of Defense has strengthened security measures on the country’s northern border, where the cities of Pacaraima and Bonfim are located, both in Roraima.
In Pacaraima, this Sunday, the movement of cars and people in the streets and between the landmark separating the two countries will be limited. There were no military personnel on site – Brazilian or Venezuelan – as of 3pm (local time).
Venezuelan taxi driver Oswaldo Alvarez, 40, lives in Santa Elena, but often takes passengers to Pacaraima. A boy from the city of Opata, who is the mayor of Villar in Bolivar state, said he had only attracted a small number of people to vote in Santa Elena.
“Yes, there are people who will vote, but there are very few of them. What people are really saying about this referendum is why [Maduro] to do this. “This problem has always been there with Essequibo, but only now he decided to consult the residents,” the taxi driver said.
Alvarez opposes the idea of annexing the Essequibo region to Venezuela. Therefore, he said that he would vote no on the five questions asked in the referendum.
“I will vote later [em Santa Elena]. I don’t think this referendum is necessary, but I will vote. “There is no logic to it, but I will vote there, because I live in Santa Elena.”
The territory of Essequibo, an area larger than Greece, has been under Guyanese control since the end of the 19th century. The territory represents 70% of today’s territory of Guyana and 125,000 people live there.
In Venezuela, the region is called Guiana Esquipa. It is a place full of dense forests, and in 2015 oil was discovered in the area. It is estimated that Guyana’s reserves amount to 11 billion barrels, the most significant portion of which is located offshore, i.e. in the sea near Essequibo. Because of oil, Guyana is the fastest growing country in South America in recent years.
I don’t know if Essequibo will control the economic situation in Venezuela. I think we need to wait and see,” the Venezuelan taxi driver emphasized regarding the territory’s mineral wealth.
Driver Tarcisio Silva, 48, who was born in Santa Elena and still lives in the city today, believes the country should think about other priorities. Silva also said he would vote “no” on the referendum questions.
“I think this is a good time for discussion, but I think we should be talking about other things, like politics, and not this situation [do referendo]. Discuss what is best for the people and the country itself, while giving space to our people.”
“This worries me because the country is in a bit of a bad state. If this is approved, it will create more problems. The situation in the country is dangerous,” he added.
Tarcisio said he spoke to some people and they were all against the referendum. In his view, there is an idea that including Essequibo in the territory will bring prosperity to the country, which he does not agree with.
“There are a lot of people who are against this. In other words, we don’t know what will happen. Everyone expects Essequibo to change.” [a situação econômica do país]But we don’t know what will happen, we don’t have that security.”
As for Brazilian businesswoman Fatima Araujo, 53 years old, who has lived in Santa Elena for 36 years and holds Venezuelan citizenship, participating in the referendum is essential for the country’s discussion. She supports the annexation of Essequibo.
“I will definitely vote, I think it is very interesting because it is a consultation, it is a way to find out what the residents are thinking. It is great that the national government is doing this to make possible decisions on Essequibo. It is important that this consultation is public as we, who live in Venezuela, and I myself am Brazilian, we have lived in the country for a long time. “So, it makes sense for me to vote for the Essequibo Annex.”
She expressed her regret that Venezuelans are not enthusiastic about participating in the referendum. For her, this is a “key” moment for exercising citizenship in the country. “I have lived in Santa Elena for more than 30 years, so the atmosphere in the city is very calm,” he said.
On social networks, Maduro launches a massive campaign to get locals to vote ‘yes’ On the five questions. I called him”5×5 Yes to defend Essequibo“, the dictator spoke of “a new historical stage for the recovery of lands.”
On the other hand, the President of Guyana said. Muhammad Irfan Ali also took to social media to say that Essequibo belongs to Guyana. “Every square inch of it belongs to us,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
20.7 million Venezuelans have been called to vote out of a population of about 30. Voting started at 6am local time (7am in Brasilia) and continues until 6pm (7pm in Brasilia).
The Essequibo region covers an area of 160,000 square kilometres, about 70% of the current area of Guyana, and has oil reserves estimated at 11 billion barrels. The area is larger than countries such as England, Cuba or Greece.
Venezuela considers Essequibo, also known as Guayana Esquipa in Spanish, a “claimed territory” and generally displays it crossed out on its maps. Meanwhile, Guyana, which controls and administers the region, includes six of its ten administrative regions there.
Countries have been disputing over the region since 1841. In 2015, the conflict intensified with the discovery of oil fields in the region by the American company ExxonMobil.
- Guyana claims to own the territory because there is a report from 1899, issued in Paris, in which the current boundaries were determined. At that time, Guyana was a territory of the United Kingdom.
- Venezuela claims that the territory belongs to it because it came in an agreement signed in 1966 with the United Kingdom itself, before the independence of Guyana, in which the arbitration ruling was canceled and the basis for a negotiated solution was laid.
“Proud explorer. Freelance social media expert. Problem solver. Gamer.”