Venezuelan electoral authorities on Sunday claimed that 95 percent of voters in a nonbinding referendum approved of the nation’s territorial claim on a huge chunk of neighboring oil-rich Guyana.
President Nicolas Maduro hailed what he called “an overwhelming victory for the ‘Yes’ throughout Venezuela.”
“We have taken the first steps of a new historic stage in the struggle for what belongs to us, to recover what the liberators left us,” he said.
The referendum raised fears in Guyana, and around the region, about Venezuela’s ultimate intentions over the contested territory.
Maduro, who will seek reelection next year amid a punishing economic crisis, hopes the outcome of the referendum will strengthen his nation’s century-old claim to the oil-rich Essequibo territory governed by Guyana.
“Today is a day of ratification, of national sovereignty, and the people have done it with flying colors,” said Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino in an evening address on state television.
About 10.5 million votes were cast by Venezuela’s 20.7 million eligible voters, said the president of the National Electoral Council, Elvis Amoroso.
But the tally stirred confusion, since an opposition politician suggested that each voter cast a total of five votes — one for each question on the referendum related to Venezuela’s claim.