Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva warned his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro against any attempt to invade the Essequibo, a province of neighboring Guyana, during a telephone conversation on Saturday, December 9. Caracas currently has its sights set on this oil-rich region.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva urged his counterpart Nicolas Maduro in a phone call Saturday against taking “unilateral measures” that would escalate Venezuela’s border dispute with neighboring Guyana, his office said.”Lula emphasized the importance of avoiding unilateral measures that could escalate the situation” in the disputed oil-rich Essequibo region, the Brazilian presidency said in a statement.It said Lula had told his Venezuelan counterpart of fellow South American countries’ “growing concern,” citing a joint declaration Thursday by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay that called for “both parties to negotiate to seek a peaceful solution.”Lula reiterated that call in his conversation with Maduro, proposing the head of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States contact both sides to set up talks on the dispute, according to his office.

He told Maduro that “we are a region of peace,” the statement said.

Tension over Essequibo has soared since Maduro’s government held a controversial referendum last weekend in which 95 percent of voters supported declaring Venezuela the region’s rightful owner, according to official results.

Malo Pinatel, with AFP