THE Venezuelan government is not backing down on its plans for a December 3 referendum on the disputed territory of Essequibo, announcing that 20.6 million people there are eligible to vote.
The governments of Venezuela and Guyana have been publicly condemning each other over the century-plus-long territorial dispute over the last few weeks.
Although the matter is currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the two countries have warned each other that the rising tensions have the potential to incite violence.
The disputed area – west of the Essequibo River – is rich in natural resources, including gold, diamonds and timber.
Guyana has said Venezuela's planned referendum equates to trying to annex two-thirds of Guyana's territory.
The Venezuelan government has been asking its population a total of five questions centred on opposing Guyana's claim to the area.
And at a press conference on Monday, president of Venezuela's national electoral council (Consejo Nacional Electoral) Elvis Amoros announced that a total of 20,694,124 people are eligible to vote in the referendum. There will be 15,839 voting centres.
Venezuela also recently told energy companies to consider any licences given by Guyana to explore the oil-rich maritime area "null and void."
The five questions:
1) Do you agree to reject by all means, in accordance with the law, the line fraudulently imposed by the Paris Arbitration Award of 1899, which seeks to deprive us of our Guyana Essequibo?
2) Do you support the Geneva Agreement of 1966 as the only valid legal instrument to reach a practical and satisfactory solution for Venezuela and Guyana regarding the controversy over the territory of Essequibo?
3) Do you agree with Venezuela's historical position of not recognising the jurisdiction of the ICJ to resolve the territorial controversy over Essequibo?
4) Do you agree to oppose, by all legal means, Guyana's claim to unilaterally dispose of a sea pending delimitation, illegally and in violation of international law?
5) Do you agree with the creation of the Essequibo state and the development of an accelerated plan for comprehensive care for the current and future population of that territory that includes, among others, the granting of citizenship and a Venezuelan identity card, in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and international law, consequently incorporating said state on the map of Venezuelan territory?