says Minister Benn
AS tensions between Georgetown and Caracas rise, Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn has made it explicitly clear that the Government of Guyana will not tolerate any unlawful act in any part of Guyana, including the Essequibo region which is being claimed by Venezuela.
The current state of affairs between the two nations was recently discussed by the minister in a radio interview with the Antigua and Barbuda media.
While expressing the seriousness of the situation, Minister Benn shared the government’s concerns regarding the nature of the December 3 referendum.
On October 23, 2023, the Government of Venezuela, through its National Electoral Council, published a list of five questions that it plans to put before the Venezuelan people in a ‘Consultative Referendum’ on December 3.
These questions are:
Do you agree to reject, by all means, in accordance with the law the line fraudulently imposed by the Paris Arbitration Award of 1899 that seeks to deprive us of our Guayana Esequiba?
Do you support the 1966 Geneva Agreement as the only valid legal instrument to reach a practical and satisfactory solution for Venezuela and Guyana regarding the controversy over the territory of Guayana Esequiba?
Do you agree with Venezuela’s historical position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to resolve the territorial controversy over Guayana Esequiba?
Do you agree to oppose by all means in accordance with the law Guyana’s claim to unilaterally dispose of a sea pending delimitation illegally and in violation of international law?
Do you agree with the creation of the Guayana Esequiba state and the development of an accelerated plan for the comprehensive care of the current and future population of that territory that includes, among others, the granting of citizenship and Venezuelan identity card in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and international law, consequently incorporating said state on the map of Venezuelan territory?
Minister Benn in his comments explained that it appears as though the desire of Venezuelans to cast ballots is igniting personal feelings about the matter. He clarified that there has never been a move to excite people on an individual level, despite the fact that Venezuela has shown on their map that since the 1960s, Essequibo belonged to them.
“What the Maduro regime seems to be doing now is reaching out to people by way of a vote. We think that this excites visceral, emotional passions on the matter and puts the overall issue of the controversy in a different light. Secondly, they are saying that if they vote, they agree that after December 3, they are prepared to issue Venezuelan nationality by way of ID cards and other documents to the Guyanese living in Essequibo, making them Venezuelans overnight,” Minister Benn related.
According to Minister Benn, this development is cause for concern as it undermines the process at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is supported by the United Nations (UN).
“If they may or perhaps will vote on accepting the five questions, it would mean that aside from already ignoring the ICJ process, if they take action by issuing new Venezuelan ID cards to Essequibians, our Guyanese people, that will create problems,” he added.
With respect to the ICJ bringing the controversy to a peaceful conclusion, Minister Benn said that the Government of Guyana’s position is noticeably clear, that is, it will not allow any unlawful act to be done in Essequibo or in Guyana as a whole.
Minister Benn expressed hope that when Guyana’s request for provisional measures regarding the referendum comes up in a few days, the ICJ will hand down a favourable ruling.
He said: “The larger ICJ process may perhaps take from 18 months to two years to come to a resolution of the controversy. We speak of a controversy and not a dispute because we insist that the 1899 Arbitral Award finally settled the borders between what was then British Guiana, now Guyana, and Venezuelan territories. Those countries then accepted and participated in a joint demarcation exercise of the boundaries that stand to this day.”
When asked whether he believes that Guyana has the support of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Minister Benn in his response said that he is confident that that support is there.
“Certainly, we know that we have the support of the CARICOM countries. The CARICOM secretariat issued a statement on October 25 in respect of the matter, and recently, a week ago, in St. Lucia, I was given the full opportunity… to speak at sessions that we had with the United Kingdom (UN), the United States (US), the European Union, and the CARICOM leaders in respect of this matter. We do have the full and unwavering support of the CARICOM and CARICOM state,” he emphasised.
He added that the US has also taken a stand with Guyana.
“The United States has a position on this matter, and that resides in the original award, which is the 1899 Arbitral Award. We have had very good relations with the United States, and their firms have expressed their interests in Guyana, particularly ExxonMobil with the discovery of oil recently. They are very much aware of the geopolitical disruption that will result if there is a change in the boundaries or any attempts, military or otherwise, by Venezuela which will disrupt the overall architecture, sovereignty, and territorial integrity throughout South America and Central America. So yes, the United States is with us on this issue, as are the other countries. We are confident of the support that we have, and the more support we expect to get from countries both in South America, in Europe, in North America, and of course in the Caribbean,” the minister said.