GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on May 27 issued a decree creating the “Atlantic coast of Venezuela”, which now includes sovereignty over Guyana’s territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean off the Essequibo region. A map, issued to coincide with this decree, indicates that Venezuela is now claiming all the territorial waters within the 200 miles range and blocking Guyana’s access to its resources in this area of the Atlantic Ocean.
This new extension of Venezuela’s claim to Guyanese territorial waters was made official in the presidential decree, No. 1787, and published in the Ordinary Official Gazette No. 40,669, dated May 27, 2015.
It is the second decree asserting a claim to Guyana’s territorial waters; the first, issued by President Raul Leoni 47 years ago in July 1968, purportedly claimed “sovereignty” over a 12-mile strip of Guyana’s continental shelf along the Essequibo coast.
The Maduro decree is set amid Venezuela’s objection over oil exploration and concessions granted by Guyana to the US oil company, Exxon-Mobil, to explore 23,000 square kilometers of the Stabroek Block located within the area into which the new territorial claim is now extended. Earlier this year when Exxon-Mobil was about to drill an exploratory well in the area, Venezuela claimed the drilling area as part of its territorial sea. The oil company recently announced a significant discovery of hydrocarbons in the drilling area.
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