Guyana condemns Venezuela for approving annexation of disputed region through referendum law

April 5, 2024 by No Comments

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — The government of Guyana strongly condemned Venezuela’s recent referendum on Thursday, claiming that the referendum’s results were used to pass a law approving the annexation of a disputed region. Neither the government of Venezuela nor Guyana has made the text of the law public. Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs vowed that it would not give up any land to Venezuela and denounced the move as a “serious violation of the fundamental principles of international law.” The referendum took place in early December, when Maduro sought to claim sovereignty over the oil- and mineral-rich region, which makes up approximately two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. Maduro asserted that the land was stolen when the border was drawn over a century ago. On Wednesday, Maduro held a signing ceremony to commemorate the referendum, calling it a “stellar and historic moment.” Maduro tweeted on Wednesday that the “decision of December 3 has now become the Law of the Republic, and will become part of the legal framework of our country’s internal political and institutional movement. The decision made by the Venezuelan people in the consultative referendum will be carried out in its entirety. With this law, we will continue to defend Venezuela on the international stage.” The government of Guyana responded sharply hours later, stating that “If Venezuela wants to challenge the ownership of the territory in question, the appropriate forum is the International Court of Justice.” It is unclear how Venezuela plans to exercise jurisdiction over Essequibo. Until the dispute is resolved, Maduro stated that he would appoint an Essequibo governor and the National Assembly would exercise legislative authority over the territory. He did not provide any further details. For decades, Guyana and Venezuela have been at odds over the region, and tensions escalated in 2015 after substantial oil deposits were discovered near Guyana’s coast in offshore areas intersecting the disputed territory. In 2018, Guyana brought the case to the United Nations’ highest court, asking judges to rule that an 1899 border decision is valid and binding. In contrast, Venezuela argues that a 1966 agreement nullified the original arbitration. A court ruling is not anticipated until next year. Meanwhile, President Irfaan Ali recently stated that Guyana is working with the United States, France, and India to strengthen its military in preparation for any potential annexation attempts. Guyana’s military has also increased recruitment efforts through social media advertising and visits to different parts of the country. Satellite images show that Venezuela’s military is amassing troops and expanding bases along its border with Guyana. In mid-December, at the request of regional leaders trying to ease tensions, the presidents of Guyana and Venezuela met on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent. However, they were unable to resolve the territorial dispute, only agreeing to refrain from issuing threats or using force against one another. A second meeting between Ali and Maduro was scheduled to take place last month, but a date has not yet been set.