Territorial woes for Guyana

Reflorestation

Territorial woes for Guyana

Two regions in dispute

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Amsterdam, April 9 2024–Guyanese authorities have requested the United Nations Security Council to review Venezuela’s territorial claims over the oil-rich Essequibo region, under the jurisdiction of the former British colony since 1899, but which Caracas has annexed to all its official maps following a referendum last year.

The Guyanese Government of President Irfaan Ali insisted that it had “repeatedly asked Venezuela to participate fully in the judicial proceedings and comply with the” decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In 2018, Guyana filed a lawsuit against Caracas before the ICJ. In April last year, the ICJ declared itself competent to rule on the case, despite Caracas’ objections.

Guyana’s Foreign Minister Hugh Todd said that his country expected the UN Security Council to issue a declaration that “obeys the norm of international law” and argued that the UN Security Council needs to be the main body “to discuss Venezuela’s violations as a member of the international community” while Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud said the Security Council will focus on the alleged “violation of norms of international law” by Venezuela. 

Persaud also wrote on X that the UN Security Council would look at the matter from the perspective of Maduro’s violation of the rules of international law requiring states to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of other states. 

He also pointed to the ICJ order on Provisional Measures, issued on Dec. 1, 2023, which bans Venezuela from any action interfering with Guyana’s administration and control of its Essequibo region “pending the court’s final ruling on the merits of the controversy”.

On Monday, Guyana welcomed Venezuela’s decision to file a document before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the ownership of the Essequibo region. It therefore stated that it “welcomes Venezuela’s submissions on the substantive issues on which the Court will ultimately decide.”

The government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said on Monday that it had delivered to the ICJ “a document and its respective copies with the historical truth and evidence” that would prove that Venezuela has sole ownership over the territory west of the Essequibo River.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) accused Venezuela of provoking “an unacceptable escalation of tensions” that threatens to “undermine peace and security in Latin America and the Caribbean.” The 15-member regional organization denounced that the Venezuelan government has acted “in a unilateral, hasty and potentially dangerous manner” by enacting the so-called Organic Law for the Defense of Guiana Essequiba, which is regarded in Georgetown as a roadmap to annex the 160,000-square-kilometer area.

Venezuela argues that the 1899 arbitration award is null and void because it “fraudulently affected 159,500 square kilometers of the territory” and recognizes the 1966 Geneva Agreement 1966 with the United Kingdom (before Guyanese independence) as the only legal instrument to resolve this dispute. The deal called for a negotiated solution that was never achieved.

Also supporting Georgetown’s stance was the Organization of American States (OAS) which was also critical of the Venezuelan legislative move. The OAS said it was a threat to regional peace and security which starkly contradicts fundamental principles of international law and underscores the dictatorial tendencies of Caracas’ regime.

“The Venezuelan regime, which a few days ago approved a fascist “law” to combat “fascism, neo-fascism, and similar expressions,” also approved a so-called “Law for the defense of Essequibo” whose “legislative” standards recall sad historical episodes that led to annexations by force, military aggression, and destruction.

“Regional peace and security depend on stopping the Venezuelan regime from advancing these threatening objectives. International law condemns the crime of aggression, condemns the threat of aggression, condemns unilateral actions to resolve bilateral problems, condemns non-compliance and violation of current Arbitration Awards, and, as an international community, we must condemn bellicose attitudes and intimidation of countries and international actors,” the OAS also said.

In light of these developments, the OAS called upon the international community to condemn Venezuela’s belligerent actions and stand in solidarity with those affected by its aggressive posturing.

Guyana also has even more troubles on its Eastern border with Suriname, where undisputed territories were  unlawful and with military occupation claimed.

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