In a referendum held on Sunday Venezuelans voted in favour of claiming the Essequibo region, which is currently legally part of Guyana.

According to reports over 90% of those who voted to establish a new state in Essequibo.

The region has long been a source of tension between the two countries. The region was first awarded to the United Kingdom by an international tribunal in 1899 – the UK at the time was Guyana’s colonial power.

The dispute flared up again in 2015 with the discovery of oil.

Essequibo makes up about half of Guyana’s area and is home to about one-sixth of Guyanese.

Critics have said the poll is nothing but an attempt by Venezuelan dictator, Nicolas Maduro, to whip up nationalist sentiment ahead of elections next year.

It is not clear whether Venezuela would take military action to annex Essequibo but this is the latest flashpoint in a world where inter-state disputes are increasingly devolving into violent conflict.

Image: SurinameCentral, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons