Venezuelans Back Socialist Dictator’s Referendum To Claim Sovereignty Over Neighboring Region

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Jake Smith Contributor
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Venezuelan voters overwhelmingly approved of dictator Nicolas Maduro’s referendum claiming sovereignty over a neighboring oil-rich region on Sunday.

The referendum argues that Venezuela has sole claim to Essequibo, an oil-rich region internationally recognized as part of Guyana. Voters approved the referendum by 95% on Sunday, and its passing has raised the possibility that Venezuela will seize the territory, potentially through an invasion, according to multiple reports. (RELATED: Socialist Regime Suspends Opposition Leader’s Victory Days After Striking Democracy-For-Oil Deal With Biden)

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council claims that 10.5 million votes were cast on Sunday, but most voting centers appeared empty and turnout seemed much lower than expected, according to The Associated Press. Maduro called the referendum’s passing “a total success” for Venezuela and the country’s “democracy.”

The referendum defies the United Nations’ top court, the International Court of Justice, which ruled in favor of Guyana’s claim over Essequibo and voted last week to bar Venezuela from taking any action to annex the region, according to Reuters. Guyana has “intensified its defense actions” and increased its military presence at its border facing Venezuela in preparation for a potential conflict or invasion, the AP reported.

“Once the referendum is approved, it gives a blank check to Maduro so that he can at any time, at his discretion, initiate or have any kind of border clash of a military nature in the Essequibo territory,” Rocío San Miguel, a defense analyst in Venezuela, told The New York Times.

The referendum also serves as an attempt by Maduro to amass support, as his popularity has rapidly declined since he took power in 2013 and pressure has grown on him to leave office. Venezuela’s economy has suffered dramatically under Maduro’s corrupt regime and roughly a quarter of the country’s population has emigrated elsewhere, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Biden administration brokered a deal in October to provide Venezuela with oil sanctions relief if Maduro’s regime holds democratic elections next year and does away with the current dictatorial system. The deal was agreed to on Oct. 18, and sanctions reliefs were subsequently provided; a court suspended the results of Maduro’s opposition leader’s primary election victory weeks later.

His regime also missed the Nov. 30 deadline to outline how it would hold next year’s elections, which was another aspect of the deal brokered by the Biden administration, according to the WSJ.

The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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