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Guyana’s President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, has assured Guyanese that he will stand with his country in the face of its challenges.
Ali spoke to thousands gathered at the Providence National Stadium for a ‘Night of Patriotic Reflection’ Sunday evening.
He said Guyana is standing on solid ground and will not be “trampled upon” amid Venezuela’s claim to his country’s resource-rich Essequibo region.
Essequibo comprises more than two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.
“I have a message for President Maduro and the vice president, nothing you say, no amount of propaganda or lies will drive any fear in my heart or the heart of any Guyanese,” Guyana’s state-owned Chronicle quoted President Ali as saying.
Ali spoke as Venezuela held a referendum on claiming sovereignty over Essequibo.
The Associated Press (AP) reported that Venezuelans approved the referendum.
But AP said it remained unclear how President Maduro would enforce the vote results.
According to the news agency, Guyana considers the referendum a step toward annexation, and the vote has its residents on edge.
Sunday’s referendum occurred despite an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling ordering Caracas to refrain from any action that would change the status quo.
Reuters reported that President Maduro cheered the “total success” of the vote late on Sunday.
“The Venezuelan people have spoken loudly and clearly,” he told a cheering crowd.
In a BBC Radio interview Sunday morning, Guyana’s President explained that his government remained highly alert.
Over the past few weeks, President Ali has been engaging international partners on the ongoing controversy with Venezuela.
Guyana’s Department of Public Information (DPI) said Ali has received assurances that those countries stand with Guyana.
Ali has declared that diplomacy is Guyana’s first line of defense.