CARACAS, Sep 7 (Reuters / EP) –
The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, said on Friday that “they will not see his face” at the dialogue table with the opposition, sponsored by Norway, until the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, “rectifies” his position on the Esequibo, an old Venezuelan territorial dispute with Guyana.
For their part, critics of the Venezuelan president believe that the Government is rekindling tensions over the Esequibo region, an area sparsely populated in the east of the country, to divert attention from economic problems.
“Until the deputy Guaidó rectifies his claim to deliver the Esequibo, we are still up from that dialogue table. Or they rectify or do not see our faces, that simple,” Maduro warned in an act broadcast on state television.
The talks between the parties, sponsored by Oslo, began in May, but were suspended in August, when Maduro delegates withdrew annoyed by a decree of US President Donald Trump, which froze Venezuelan assets abroad.
However, the opposition has indicated that it is the Maduro Government that has to respond when these negotiations are reactivated because it was they who withdrew.
Meanwhile and in the midst of the controversy, the government has accused the opposition leader this week of wanting to “sell” the Esequibo area, while Guaidó has denied criticism and reiterated that he has always maintained that the territory in dispute with Guyana belongs to Venezuela
Guyana has argued that Caracas resigned its claim by the Esequibo after an international court ruling in 1899, but Venezuela then backed down that decision. In January 2018, the United Nations referred the dispute to the International Court of Justice.
The old territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana has also been revived in recent years after Exxon discovered more than 5,000 million barrels of oil and gas off the coast of Guyana. In Venezuela, a member of OPEC, on the other hand, crude oil production is at its lowest levels of 70 years due to the serious economic and political crisis.
The political crisis in Venezuela worsened on January 10, when Maduro decided to start a second six-year term that does not recognize the opposition or much of the international community because they believe that the presidential elections of May 20 were a fraud.
In response, the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, proclaimed himself interim president on January 23 with the aim of ceasing “usurpation”, creating a transitional government and holding “free elections.”
Meanwhile, more than 4 million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years because of the humanitarian crisis in the Caribbean nation. The UN warns that, if the trend continues, by the end of 2019 they could add more than five million.