The Week That Was: Global News In Review

Foreign Policy Brief #105 | By: Ibrahim Castro | December 10, 2023

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Venezuela-Guyana territorial dispute

Tensions between neighboring states, Venezuela and Guyana have shot up in recent weeks over a long-running territorial dispute. Last weekend Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro got the victory he sought in a referendum on whether to claim sovereignty over an oil-rich area of neighboring Guyana. In dispute is a 62,000-square-mile border territory around the Esequibo river, an area which is mainly jungle, and an offshore site where massive discoveries of oil and gas have been made. Both countries claim ownership of the territory, which is sparsely populated and whose border was agreed in a 1899 decision when Guyana was still part of the British Empire. Companies such as Exxon Mobil, China’s CNOOC and US Hess already began oil production in Guyana back in 2019.

Maduro said last week he would authorize oil exploration in the Esequibo and that all companies already operating offshore Guyana have three months to leave. Exxon has said border disputes are for countries and relevant international bodies to solve. Maduro’s government still has not explained what actions it might take to enforce results of the vote.

Putin’s visit to the Middle East

Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin made a rare tour to the Middle East during which he visited Saudi Arabia after a short trip to the United Arab Emirates. The meeting was part of Russia’s quest to stake out a more influential role in the Middle East, with oil cooperation and the Israel-Hamas war on the agenda. Both Saudi Arabia and Russia, called for all OPEC+ members to join an agreement on output cuts in order to curb a recent drop in oil prices. The Russian leader has made very few international trips after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him in March, accusing him of illegally transporting Ukrainian children into Russia. Neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia have signed the ICC’s founding treaty, and thus are not obligated to arrest Putin when he enters their territories.

Maori protests in New Zealand

Thousands of Maori protesters took to the streets across New Zealand last week, objecting to policies of the new government that the Maori say will unravel decades of indigenous progress. The country’s new conservative government, which was sworn in last week, has said it will scrap the Maori Health Authority, repeal legislation designed to prevent the removal of Maori children from their families and  minimize Maori language use in public service. The government has also said it would review the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, which upholds Maori rights, including their right to autonomy as they are the country’s original inhabitants. The treaty was an agreement reached in 1840 between the British and indigenous Maori. While it is not a formal legal document, it forms the basis of New Zealand’s constitution, which includes the protection of Maori interests. Critics say the moves are an attack on four decades of legislative decisions and the new government will likely face many legal challenges in its attempt to undo Maori gains.

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