The land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela has been disputed since its colonial inception between British and Spanish powers in South America. In the 1840s, the British government had the border unilaterally surveyed, but the proposed line encroached on Venezuelan territorial claims. The boundary has since been arbitrated (1899) and bilaterally agreed upon following demarcation (1905) but remains in conflict. While the British line, accepted by Guyana, is the current de facto boundary, Venezuela maintains a historic claim to all territory currently administered by Guyana west of the Essequibo River.

The de facto boundary follows a series of rivers, watersheds, and other geographic features for 829 kilometers from the Atlantic coast to the tripoint with Brazil on Mount Roraima. Venezuela’s claim along the Essequibo River extends for 1,034 kilometers before reaching Brazilian territory. At stake is approximately 142,795 square kilometers that is currently administered by Guyana. Offshore the disputed land territory is maritime space that was recently discovered to be rich in hydrocarbon resources, upping the stakes of the land boundary dispute.

Guyana submitted the dispute to the International Court of Justice in 2018. Despite Venezuela’s withdrawal from the case, proceedings are currently ongoing.

Map showing the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela

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