Venezuela’s plan to create a state of ‘Guayana Esequiba’ on Guyana’s territory is an act of brazen and lawless perfidy. The border between Guyana and Venezuela was lawfully determined in 1899 by an Arbitral Tribunal, established by the Treaty of Arbitration signed at Washington in 1897 to find a “full, final and perfect settlement.”  A dispute had arisen between the United States and Britain, with the United States invoking the Monroe Doctrine on Venezuela’s behalf, in its claim that Britain was occupying territory to which it was entitled.

The members of the Arbitral Tribunal and the lawyers representing the parties were among the best in the world and of the highest integrity. Though appointing Americans to represent it, including a former American President, Venezuela now deceitfully criticizes the Award because no Venezuelans represented it. But at the time, Venezuela, Britain and the United States accepted the Arbitral Award. In 1905 the boundary was demarcated, and the map was signed on behalf of Venezuela and Great Britain and approved by Venezuela’s legislature. No official issue thereafter arose in connection with the border until 1962 when Venezuela announced at the United Nations that it rejects the Arbitral Award which it deemed to be “null and void.” The Severo Mallet-Prevost Memorandum, alleging a ‘deal’ between the British and Russians, featured prominently in its case for rejection but, like so many other fanciful propositions, has been quietly abandoned.

The Geneva Agreement was signed between Venezuela and Britain in 1966 immediately prior to Guyana’s independence, which provided the means for resolving the controversy that had arisen as a result of Venezuela’s contention that the Arbitral Award was null and void. What is not as well-known as the facts outlined above, particularly in relation to Venezuela’s campaign for direct negotiations between Guyana and Venezuela, is the extent to which Guyana has engaged in negotiations with Venezuela on the basis of the Geneva Agreement. First, there was the Mixed Commission, which met between 1966 and 1970, even as Venezuela invaded Guyana’s half of Ankoko Island in 1966, before the ink was dry on the Geneva Agreement. Whilst protesting, Guyana continued to meet, despite Venezuela’s construction of a military base on Ankoko.

The Port of Spain Protocol in 1970 suspended discussions for twelve years. Upon the expiration of the twelve years, the United Nations Secretary General who, under the Geneva Agreement has the responsibility of choosing a means of settlement, instituted the Good Officer Process which commenced about 1990. It fizzled out shortly after 2010 because there was no progress. I represented Guyana in the discussions under three UN Good Officers from 1994, succeeding Dr. Barton Scotland, until the end of the discussions. During the APNU+AFC administration, when the UN Secretary General was informed of the lack of progress after fifty plus years, he implemented a process of Enhanced Mediation. Intensive discussions and conferences took place over a period of two years, led by Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge, in which I participated, but again no progress was made. In 2018 the Secretary General referred the matter to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). Venezuela does not apprise countries with which it engages on the Border Controversy on the extent of direct discussions. This false and deceitful omission creates the false and deceitful impression that Guyana does not want to negotiate.

Throughout this period, Venezuela has blatantly lied about the meaning of the Geneva Agreement. It has argued for decades that the Geneva Agreement reversed the Arbitral Award and has successfully intimidated potential, foreign, investors in the Essequibo region on the ground that it is disputed territory. Venezuela is now claiming Guyana’s entire maritime space and virulently attacks ExxonMobil, the largest investor in the Stabroek Block. The most recent of its many misinterpretations of the Geneva Agreement is that it provides for a settlement of the controversy by negotiations and not by recourse to the ICJ. Its campaign of lies seeks to influence the gullible.

Venezuela’s history of intimidation and perfidy started with its disavowal of the Arbitral Award in 1962, its seizure of Ankoko, its numerous violations of Guyana’s airspace, its intimidation of potential investors in Essequibo, its seizure of vessels in Guyana ‘s waters, its claim of Guyana’s maritime space, including its EEZ, and now its proposed referendum of December 3, designed to bolster Maduro’s minimal electoral appeal, while reinforcing its claim to Guyana’s territory, rejecting the Arbitral Award, rejecting the jurisdiction of the ICJ, upholding talks under the Geneva Agreement as the only means of settlement, rejecting Guyana’s claim to its EEZ and creating the ‘Guayana Esequiba’ state with power to issue passports and ID cards to its residents. Venezuela promised issuing passports to Essequibians before. There were no takers.

 The APNU+AFC Opposition, like the PPP/C Opposition before it, completely rejects Venezuela’s intimidation and perfidy. A debate in the National Assembly on November 3 on Venezuela’s so-called referendum and its laying of the groundwork to invade Guyana and seize its territory, should be the beginning of a nationwide, united, campaign, to mobilise the entire Guyana population and diaspora against Venezuela’s claims. Venezuela’s appeals to peace and international law are those of an aggressor with evil intent.  

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