The Electoral Commission said more than 10 million people, including 95 percent, voted for independence in the roughly 160,000 square kilometer region, more than two-thirds of Guyana’s land area.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro welcomed the decision, saying “the Venezuelan people expressed their will openly and clearly”.
The referendum was held despite the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) having previously ruled on the case and Caracas calling for no action to change the status quo.
While the Venezuelan opposition also supports the region’s independence, many of them believed that the referendum just now served to distract Venezuelans from domestic political issues.
Caracas said: Not wanting to encroach on an area covered by primeval forests, About 125,000 of Guyana’s approximately 800,000 people live here.
Guyanese President Irfan Ali assured the people at a mass rally on Sunday that “there is no reason to fear in the coming hours, days and months.” Citing international support for Georgetown as an example, he insisted Guyana was in a “very favorable position” in the case and warned Caracas to be prudent.
The dispute between the two countries over Essequibo has been going on for over a century. And tensions have been renewed in recent years as new oil deposits have been discovered in the area.
Essequibo also borders Brazil, and the Brazilian Defense Ministry announced last week that it would increase its military presence in the Brazilian part of the region.
There is also a maritime dispute between Venezuela and Guyana.
Cover image: A Venezuelan soldier casts his vote in the weekend’s polls. Cover image credit: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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