CARACAS, Monday June 04, 2012 | Update

Guyana explores area in Venezuelan Atlantic front

Operations in the Stabroek block came to a standstill due to a protest in 2000

Aníbal Martínez, a member of the Venezuelan Oil Advocacy Front, termed "hostile" the oil exploration instructed by Guyana (File photo: Cheo Pacheco)
Monday June 04, 2012  10:52 AM

Exxon Mobil and Shell have reactivated exploration works in a block awarded by Guyana offshore Venezuela's Atlantic front, halted following a protest by Venezuela in 1999-2000.

This is the case of the Stabroek block, where the oil multinationals ended the seismic survey and started drilling. Last January, Guyana's President Donald Ramotar met with Exxon Mobil officials to discuss the work progress.

The block does not only occupy a portion of the sea area of the disputed area, but also Venezuela's Atlantic front, offshore Delta Amacuro.

The Guyanese government awarded the concession to Exxon Mobil in 1999. This, in addition to the concession for the Pomeroom block on behalf of Canadian CGX, caused a strenuous response from the Venezuelan government.

Aníbal Martínez, the president of the Venezuelan Oil Advocacy Front, explained that in such "hostile action" in 1999, Guyana awarded concessions on 60% of Venezuela's Atlantic front. Venezuela challenged the move by diplomatic means. Moreover, the Venezuelan Oil Advocacy Front, together with Venezuela's Ministry of Energy and Mines, reported the case at the World Petroleum Congress held in Calgary, Canada, in June 2000, and later in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in September 2002.

As regards the Pomeroon block, the CGX did not even begin the works. On the other block, though, there was resistance.

In August 2000, Exxon Mobil rebuked the remarks by then Venezuelan Foreign Minister José Vicente Rangel, who strongly recommended the company to pull out of the Stabroek block. "We are aware of the comments made by the Foreign Minister, yet we have not plans to relinquish that concession," Exxon Mobil Spokesman Bob Davis told international agencies on that occasion.

Translated by Conchita Delgado

This is all there is

A simple reason: there is oil galore, would suffice to explain Guyana's actions. Another explanation lies in the little or none efforts made by the Venezuelan government to thwart the move by the Guyanese. This is certainly not a new problem, but a problem only recently highlighted because oil is involved. But what other resources does the disputed area hold? For most of us it is a section on the map with black and white stripes on it, a depiction of something distant, alien, a nothingness not worth paying much attention to in geography classes back in elementary school.

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