VENEZUELA is asking the UN to mediate in a dispute with neighbouring Guyana over maritime drilling rights, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said yesterday.
The announcement came after Venezuela threatened to cancel an oil-for-rice deal with Guyana and buy produce from Suriname instead.
For the past four years Venezuela has bought about 40 per cent of Guyana’s rice production in exchange for oil that amounts to about half of Guyana’s daily supply needs.
“It will be a significant blow to us,” said Rice Millers’ Association president Peter DeGroot.
The oil-for-rice deal was part of the Petrocaribe programme, a Venezuelan initiative providing fuel on generous financial terms to Caribbean and Central American countries.
But a dispute over territory dating back to the imperial tussles of the 19th century may have soured the deal.
Oil giant Exxon Mobil, which has a history of disputes with Venezuela’s socialist government, announced in May that it had discovered major oil reserves in contested waters off Guyana’s coast.
In an interview with regional TV network Telesur on Wednesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused Exxon Mobil of funding a “brutal campaign of lies” against Venezuela.
He alleged that the firm had bankrolled Guyanese President David Granger’s May election campaign, which was mired in claims of vote-rigging.