Venezuelan rivals cross swords over relinquishing claim of oil-rich Guyana’s Essequibo

Venezuela’s rival political authorities are trading accusations of relinquishing the country’s historical claim to a large swath of neighboring Guyana on the eve of ExxonMobil’s launch of offshore production there.

Venezuela’s executive vice president Delcy Rodriguez on Thutsday released what she says is a months-old tape of Vanessa Neumann, the UK envoy of opposition leader Juan Guaido, discussing the territorial issue with one of Guaido’s advisers, Manuel Avendaño.

In the alleged recording, Neumann says that after speaking with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, she recommends that the opposition should “drop the topic” of Venezuela’s claim to the territory of Essequibo in order to secure London’s political support. Guyana is a member of the British Commonwealth.

Rodriguez said the tape was made before Guaido’s 23 January 2019 declaration of an interim presidency that the UK and most Western countries have since recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state.

She accused Neumann and Guaido of giving up Venezuela’s claim to the territory, where ExxonMobil will start production of 120,000 b/d of crude in March 2020.

In response to the accusations, Guaido’s putative foreign minister, Julio Borges, today blamed President Nicolas Maduro’s government of “giving away the Essequibo” and not defending the country’s interests at the International Court of Justice.