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News > Venezuela

Analysis: A New Chapter in the Essequibo Dispute

  • Venezuelan President votes in the referendum on Esequibo in Venezuela. Dec. 3, 2023.

    Venezuelan President votes in the referendum on Esequibo in Venezuela. Dec. 3, 2023. | Photo: X/@Jedi_Sanfermin

Published 3 December 2023

President Maduro: "Venezuela will come out strengthened... The first effect that the powerful voice of national unity must have is to seat the president of Guyana, Irfaan Ali, after this referendum."

The historic claim of the Essequibo territory by the Venezuelan government has become news again, thanks to the popular referendum on the issue recently called by the Bolivarian government. As soon as the popular consultation was announced, the diplomatic confrontation between the Venezuelan and Guyanese governments has been escalating, as has the anti-Chavista campaign by the United States and the international conservative governments. This consultation is intended to be one more turn of the screw in the Venezuelan attempts to recover this territory.

Essequibo Referendum Is a National Awakening: President Maduro

The referendum that is being held this Sunday, December 3, demonstrate the Venezuelan unity and the will of its people to get what belong to them historically. President Maduro said in this regard that “Venezuela will come out stronger after this referendum.”

The ICJ said in April that it had jurisdiction over the case, but a final ruling could be years away. The jurisdiction that Guyana has over the territory of Essequibo is supported by the resolution in its favor that determined the Paris Arbitration at the end of the 19th century. It is obvious that this decision is plagued by inconsistencies and irregularities, which goes against the historical right Venezuelan have over the territory. Given the escalation of tensions that the issue has taken in recent years, the International Court of Justice has declared itself capable of mediating in the resolution of the conflict, but the Venezuelan government has refused to recognize such decision.

Venezuelan officials contend that the Americans and Europeans conspired to cheat their country out of the land, and argue that a 1966 agreement to resolve the dispute effectively nullified the original arbitration.

The tweet reads, "We are voting united, with a single color, a single flag and a single feeling: love for our Venezuela Toda. Our vote is to make our country respected. Let us feel the spirit of national unity that has reunited us to defend what belongs to us and reject the plundering of the British Empire. All of us to Vote!"

Friction between the countries has increased since 2015 as a result of oil exploration operations by ExxonMobil and other companies in offshore areas intersecting the disputed territory.

What is unquestionable is that the holding of the referendum this Sunday gives a new connotation to the strategies for recovering the territory by the Venezuelan government. It is expected that this action will inaugurate more direct actions by the Venezuelan government.

The referendum had 5 questions to be answered by those consulted. The content of the questions is about the rejection of the line imposed by the Paris Arbitration Award of 1899. The second question is about the Geneva Agreement of 1966 as the only legal instrument regarding the controversy. The questions also address the position of Venezuela of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. It also opposes Guyana's claim to unilaterally dispose of a sea pending delimitation. The last question is about the consent of the creation of the Guayana Esequiba state and the implementation of an accelerated plan for the comprehensive care of the current and future population of that territory, including, among other things, granting citizenship and Venezuelan 

Dozens of popular representatives and social or community associations have participated in the referendum, who from the headquarters of the Venezuelan Electoral Commission assumed the responsibility for carrying out and safeguarding the results of the consultation. The Essequibo territory has large reserves of minerals of high value in the international market, such as gold, diamonds, among others. It has significant oil reserves that are still being studied and could be much larger. The exploitation of the area brings enormous profits to the Guyanese government, with the participation of large transnational companies in the area of natural resources as well as international financial organizations. For the Venezuelan government, the expansions and new negotiations for exploitation, exploration and commercial evaluation of the territory of Essequibo are one more chapter in the usurpation of the right of the Venezuelan people to decide and enjoy the sovereign right over said wealth, and therefore it has denounced the lack of legitimacy thereof.

Today, nearly 21 million Venezuelans were summoned to a popular consultation that seeks to position the Venezuelan people regarding the future actions and strategies that their government will implement to recover the territory of Essequibo. However, this referendum will constitute in the medium term a basis of credibility to move towards more decisive actions.

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