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News > Latin America

Divide and Conquer? Exxon Mobil Reignites Venezuela-Guyana Fight

  • A Venezuelan petroleum worker processes crude oil at a government-run center.

    A Venezuelan petroleum worker processes crude oil at a government-run center. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 March 2017

Exxon Mobil is siding with the Guyanese government against Venezuela, claiming disputed oil-rich regions belong to the former.

Exxon Mobil Co. announced Thursday a new major oil discovery on the Stabroek Block, a chain of disputed islands off the coast of Venezuela and Guyana.

Trump’s New Weapon Against Venezuela: Oil-Rich Essequibo?

Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd., Exxon Mobil subsidiaries, began drilling in Stabroek’s Snoek region on Feb. 22, 2017. Since then, they’ve encountered 82 feet of high-quality, oil-bearing sandstone reservoirs.

The discovery is expected to rake in millions for the multinational oil giant.

“The latest discovery at Snoek demonstrates the continued success we have achieved in this technically-complex play, which is just part of the significant exploration province offshore Guyana,” Exxon Mobil Exploration Company Steve Greenlee said, according to Demerara Waves.

The Guyanese government, which currently administers Snoek, claims the oil-rich region for itself. Venezuela, however, has laid claim to the same part of the Stabroek Block for hundreds of years.

Taking advantage of the territorial dispute, Exxon Mobil has sided with the Guyanese government against Venezuela, which nationalized US$10 billion of its assets ten years ago. The company is already preparing plans to excavate, process and sell crude oil from the area.

But Snoek isn’t the only disputed Venezuelan-Guyanese region that Exxon Mobil is exploiting for its personal gain. Essequibo, another oil-rich area that borders both countries, is estimated to have between 800 million and 1.4 billion barrels of high-quality crude oil, worth at least US$44 billion. Located on the mainland, Essequibo is also another point of contention between the two South American countries.

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Last month, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez expressed her country’s commitment to peaceful settlement of the dispute with Guyana over Essequibo. She made the remarks on the 51st anniversary of the Geneva Agreement, which granted Guyana temporary political authority over the region until the situation is resolved. The agreement was signed by Venezuela and the United Kingdom, Guyana’s colonizer, in 1966.

“Here we are showing the international community the true soul of the Venezuelan people, who are a people of peace, seeking a resolution in a peaceful, negotiated, political and acceptable way for both parties, a resolution on the controversy of the Essequibo territory,” Rodriguez said, Sputnik International reported.

The dispute over Essequibo reemerged in January when U.S. multinational giants Exxon Mobil and Hess discovered a massive amount of oil in the territory. And now that Exxon Mobil is moving forward with plans to exploit the Stabroek Block, it may attempt to push diplomatic relations to a new low.

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