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Essequibo: Venezuelans vote to claim Guyana-controlled oil region

Venezuelans have voted overwhelmingly in favour of claiming a disputed oil-rich territory long controlled by neighbouring Guyana.

More than 95% approved establishing a new state in Essequibo, officials say.

Caracas says the region has been part of Venezuela since independence from Spain 200 years ago, but Guyana says it was awarded to what was then British Guiana in the late 19th Century.

The dispute flared up again in 2015 after a major offshore oil discovery.

President Nicolás Maduro hailed the referendum result as an "overwhelming victory for 'Yes' throughout Venezuela".

Essequibo, an area of 159,500 sq km (61,600 sq miles), makes up two thirds of the land controlled by Guyana and is home to around a sixth of its population.

The status of the region has long been a source of tension between the two neighbours.

An 1899 ruling by an international arbitral tribunal awarded the territory to Britain, which at the time was the colonial power in Guyana, but in recent decades. successive Venezuelan governments have argued the ruling was unfair.

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