I HAVE read with grave concern, news reports of the issuance of a decree by the President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, with the support of Venezuela’s National Assembly, which seeks to reinforce Venezuela’s baseless claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region and its attendant maritime space. All Guyana must vehemently condemn and reject this reckless action on the part of Venezuela.
The Government and people of Venezuela must act responsibly, as well as respect international law and international agreements. Venezuela’s contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 which established the legal boundaries between the two countries is not valid, is currently engaging the attention of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), having been referred to that Court by the United Nations Secretary-General in keeping with the provisions of the 1966 Geneva Agreement.
Article IV (2) of the Geneva Agreement empowers the Secretary-General to choose any of the means articulated in Article 33 of the UN Charter to resolve the controversy peacefully. Both parties must let the ICJ process take its course. Venezuela must respect the ICJ process and desist from any statements and action that can serve to heighten tensions between our two countries. I am sure that as has been the position of successive governments, Guyana remains committed to mutually respectful cordial relations with Venezuela and open to bilateral and multilateral discussions with its western neighbour that would serve to strengthen relations, except for the issue of the controversy which is now before a competent court of law.
With global attention focused on current events in Washington DC, it should not be lost on anyone that Maduro has conveniently chosen his timing to issue his decree. But this strategy will not succeed.
Guyanese must be united on this issue and it is time for the opposition in Guyana to end its non-recognition of the government and begin serious and meaningful engagement. That would be a responsible and nationalistic move on its part at this time. It is hoped that the Biden administration will seek to have the PPP/C government removed from office is wishful and naive thinking. That will not happen. The opposition can however continue to robustly pursue its election petitions now before the court.
We have a country to defend and build. Guyana must also mount a unified effort to bolster international support for the maintenance of its territorial integrity, including military support should Venezuela be emboldened to exercise the military option.