Going from Rags to Riches

In 2015, Guyana—a poor, so-so democracy, a rainforest-covered country of just 800,000 people, stood to become the fourth largest offshore oil producer in the world, by 2040.

How did this happen? It was at the time that Exxon Mobil discovered 11 billion barrels of oil off its coast, in a border area with Venezuela. The discovery promised to change Guyana, with the country potentially gaining power and wealth, reportedly without having the financial, legal, economic, and intellectual infrastructure to handle it wisely.

Many super-powers immediately offered help, coveting a piece of that pie.

You must know that most of these petrol economies, are also immediately threatened, upon discovery of oil fields, by corruption, irresponsible digging, unethical deals and environmental hazards, which we all agree come with becoming rich and famous, overnight.

I have a friend in charge of informing me about petrol and refineries in the Caribbean. He reports about refineries opening and closing about deals falling through and about the potential upheaval and upsets the discovery of rich oil fields in Guyana would cause.

He often tells me Aruba had its share of probes, but for some mysterious reason all probing took place in the NORTH, instead of in the SOUTH-EAST and thus were doomed to failure. He says the decision to dig in the wrong place was political. I wish I’d understand what he means because a lot of money went down the drain when probes came up dry.

Back to Guyana. If you look at the map, the border area of 61.600- sq miles, Essequibo, is marked by a river and islands, nice natural mooring and docking places.

The border was outlined in a treaty by the colonials, Spain in the case of Venezuela, and the Netherlands and the UK in the case of Guyana. They agreed not to agree, in 1966, on the disputed area which each county claims for itself. The area is now administered and controlled by Guyana but Venezuela has been eying it intensely. Both parties pledged to find a practical, peaceful and satisfactory solution to the dispute, but….

Things have been heating up lately. I guess the Venezuelan despot is looking at the Russian autocrat and at the Chinese oppressors, and saying to himself Me Too, I can join the pantheon of greats by overturning precious agreements, and reclaim that area for Venezuela.

The matter was referred to the UN International Court of Justice in 2020. The court ruled for Guyana, propelling Venezuela to call for the total reform of the UN, and disputing the Security Council authority, because, it supports Guyana. The Dutch are on Guyana’s side and the UN Security Council will not allow Venezuela to enter the area violently.

The latest development? Venezuelans on Sunday approved a referendum called by the government of President Nicolás Maduro to claim sovereignty over an area of neighboring Guyana that Caracas argues was stolen when the border was drawn more than a century ago. It remains unclear how Maduro will enforce the results of the vote.

A referendum, asking the people to vote on a legal matter very few people understand.

My friends on political watch report that it’s a ploy to divert the attention of Venezuelans from their own poverty and misery, inviting them to get outraged against Guyana instead of taking their anger out on the President in the upcoming elections.

Maybe an attempt to force joint-exploitations?!


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December 05, 2023
Rona Coster