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The Venezuela–Guyana Dispute Explained in 3 Maps

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In a territorial dispute spanning nearly two centuries, tensions between Guyana and Venezuela have once again reached a boiling point. The focal point of this dispute is the vast Essequibo region which encompasses around 70% of Guyana’s territory, and is roughly equivalent to the size of Florida.

Venezuela claims historical rights dating back to the Spanish colonial period when Essequibo fell within its boundaries. In 1840, the British government drew the Schomburgk Line expanding the territory of British Guiana (now Guyana) far beyond the occupied area and to the strategically-located mouth of the Orinoco River.

Historical map shows British border claims in Venezuela and British Guiana (circa 1840)

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This line played a pivotal role in shaping the modern borders of the region by defining the territory claimed by the UK, and later, a decolonized Guyana, as the country gained independence in 1966. That same year, Venezuela and the UK signed an agreement aiming for a negotiated solution.

In 2004, President Hugo Chávez eased border tensions under the advice of Fidel Castro, stating that he considered the dispute to be finished.

Recent events, however, have reignited the dispute. Between 2015 and 2021, Guyana announced the discovery of about 8 billion barrels of oil, elevating a country with fewer than a million people to a prominent position among the top nations in terms of oil reserves. ExxonMobil, leading a consortium, operates three offshore projects in the country, earning nearly $6 billion in 2022 alone.

Venezuela’s Referendum and New Map

On December 1, 2023, the World Court ordered Venezuela to refrain from actions in the border dispute with Guyana. However, just two days later, on December 3, Venezuelans approved a referendum claiming sovereignty over Essequibo.

President Maduro's new map of Venezuela which includes the new state of Guayana Esequiba

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President Maduro subsequently ordered the creation of a new state, Guayana Esequiba, within Venezuela’s borders, and released a new map of the country.

Venezuela’s new territorial claims don’t stop on land, they extend far out into sea as well. Specifically, Venezuela is claiming a critical area called the Stabroek Oil Block, where ExxonMobil and others are already active.

Venezuela offshore claim of the Stabroek Oil Block

With a population of around 125,000 people, the disputed region is full of dense rainforest, making a military incursion from Venezuela feasible only by sea or through the Brazilian state of Roraima. Brazil, maintaining good diplomatic relationships with both countries, has already increased military personnel on the border. The U.S. announced joint military flight drills in Guyana on December 7.

Despite increased military presence in the region, many experts believe that President Maduro has no intention of actually annexing Essequibo, and that this recent claim is a tactic to bolster his own image within Venezuela.

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Demographics

Charted: Unauthorized Immigrants in the U.S., by Country of Origin

The U.S. has over 11 million unauthorized immigrants.

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This Voronoi graphic visualizes the country of origin for the unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S.

Visualizing Unauthorized Immigrants in the U.S.

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

More than any other nation, the U.S. is home to over 46 million immigrants. Of these, over 11 million are unauthorized immigrants.

This graphic visualizes the countries of origin for the unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S., based on 2021 estimates from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), published in September 2023. Because these estimates are based on 2021 figures, they don’t capture the record number of border encounters witnessed in 2022 and 2023.

Mexico’s Overall Share is Declining

According to the MPI, Mexico accounted for 7.7 million unauthorized immigrants in 2008. This suggests a 32% decline to the latest estimate of 5.2 million.

CountryRegionUnauthorized Immigrants
🇲🇽 MexicoNorth America5,203,000
🇬🇹 GuatemalaNorth America780,000
🇸🇻 El SalvadorNorth America751,000
🇭🇳 HondurasNorth America564,000
🇮🇳 IndiaAsia400,000
🇵🇭 PhilippinesAsia309,000
🇻🇪 VenezuelaSouth America251,000
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia241,000
🇨🇴 ColombiaSouth America201,000
🇧🇷 BrazilSouth America195,000
🌍 Rest of World2,322,000
Total11,217,000

Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras follow Mexico. According to the Migration Policy Institute, immigration from these three countries has been the most significant contributor to the growth of the Central American-born population in the U.S. since 1980. Roughly 86% of Central Americans in the United States in 2021 were born in one of these three countries.

India comes in fifth. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an unprecedented number of undocumented Indian immigrants have been crossing U.S. borders on foot in recent years.

Among the factors for the increase in Indian immigration to the U.S. are the overall growth in global migration since the pandemic, oppression of minority communities in India, and extreme visa backlogs.

Learn more about unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. by our breakdown by U.S. state found here.

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