Guyana taking border dispute with Venezuela to UN Security Council
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – The Guyana government says it will take the border issue with Venezuela to the United Nations (UN), after it described “unsettling developments” in relation to the “unlawful claim by Caracas to the mineral rich Essequibo region in Guyana”.
In a radio and television broadcast, President Irfaan Ali said that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday night “announced several measures which his government intends to take in enforcing the outcome of the referendum held on December 3, 2023.”
Ali added, “As I made clear from the date the referendum was first announced, this is a direct threat to Guyana’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence, and in violation of fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the UN and OAS (Organization of American States) Charters.”
Maduro announced that foreign companies working in the disputed Guyanese county of Essequibo would have to withdraw within three months, asserting his right to do so after Venezuelan voters backed the December 3 referendum seeking ownership of the area.
“I propose a special law to prohibit all companies that work under Guyana concessions from any transaction. They have three months to withdraw once his proposal is approved,” Maduro added.
While Maduro hasn’t yet dispatched any military forces to enforce his demands, he said he would be creating a military unit for the disputed territory, but that it would be based in a neighbouring Venezuelan state.
In his broadcast, President Ali said the measures announced “are in blatant disregard of the order given by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on December 1,” and that “Guyana views this as an imminent threat to its territorial integrity and will intensify precautionary measures to safeguard its territory”.
Ali said he has already spoken to the UN Secretary General Antonio Gueterres “and several leaders alerting them of these dangerous developments and the desperate actions of President Maduro that fly in the face of international law and constitute a grave threat to international peace and security”.
He said Guyana would “bring this matter to the United Nations Security Council for appropriate action to be taken by that body” on Wednesday. Further, we have engaged Caricom (Caribbean Community), the OAS, the Commonwealth and many of our bilateral partners including the United States of America, Brazil, the United Kingdom and France. The Guyana Defence Force is on full alert and has engaged its military counterparts including the US Southern Command.”
Ali said by defying the Court, Venezuela has rejected international law, the rule of law generally, fundamental justice and morality, and the preservation of international peace and security. They have literally declared themselves an outlaw nation.
“Nothing they do, however, will stop Guyana from proceeding with the case in the ICJ (International Court of Justice), or stop the ICJ from ultimately issuing its final Judgement on the merits of the case. We will not allow our territory to be violated nor the development of our country to be stymied by this desperate threat,” he added.
Political observers say the campaign to take ownership of Essequibo is part of Maduro’s attempt to boost his popularity ahead of next year’s election.
Venezuela has claimed the huge territory for decades — even as its 160,000 square kilometres (62,000 square miles) represent more than two-thirds of Guyana, and its population of 125,000 is one-fifth Guyana’s total.
Last Friday, the ICJ ruled that Venezuela must not take any action to seize the mineral and forest-rich county of Essequibo in Guyana based on its upcoming referendum.
Both Georgetown and Caracas had made presentations to the ICJ during two-days of hearing last month into the case relating to the 1899 Arbitral Award after Guyana, in its request, had said that the Venezuelan government, through its National Electoral Council had published a list of five questions that it intends to put before the people of Venezuela in a “Consultative Referendum” on Sunday.
In its ruling, the ICJ issued a number of provisional measures that “unanimously pending a final decision in the case, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shall refrain from taking any action, which would modify the situation that currently prevails in the territory in dispute, whereby the Cooperative Republic of Guyana administers and exercises control over that area”.
The ICJ said also that “unanimously both parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the court or make it more difficult to resolve.”
“The court emphasises that the question of the validity of the 1899 Award and the related question of the definitive settlement of the land boundary dispute between Guyana and Venezuela are matters for the court to decide at the merits stage. The court recalls that Guyana has requested to indicate measures aimed at ensuring the non-aggravation of the dispute with Venezuela, when indicating provisional measures for the purpose of reserving specific rights,” the ICJ added.