Guyanese need no evidence of the perfidy of Venezuela. Before the ink was dry on the Geneva Agreement signed in February 1966 and on the Order in Council granting Independence to Guyana from British colonialism in May 1966, Venezuela invaded Guyana’s half of Ankoko in October 1966 and have since been in illegal occupation of the island. In violation of the Geneva Agreement, Venezuela has shamelessly argued that adherence by Guyana to the Geneva Agreement, is the only way to resolve the border controversy. Guyana’s adherence, it has argued, require it to negotiate directly with Venezuela for a “practical settlement” of the controversy. Whatever the “practical settlement” means it relates only to the task of the Mixed Commission. The Agreement provides that, if within four years, the Mixed Commission does not arrive at a “full agreement for the solution to the controversy” one of the means under Article of the UN Charter shall apply. Article 33 provides for a judicial solution. Guyana engaged in talks with Venezuela for most of the period between 1966 and 2018 when the UN Secretary General referred the controversy to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) because of lack of progress.

Venezuela has appeared in the preliminary proceeding before the ICJ and has even applied for interim measures, such as the dismissal of Guyana’s case because Great Britain, which is a party to the Geneva Agreement, is not a party to the case before the ICJ. At the same time Venezuela had reserved its position in relation to its participation in the substantive proceedings. Its Memorial, consisting of its written arguments, is due on 8 April, 2024. While Venezuela can apply for an extension of time, and still participate in the proceedings, one of the questions approved at its recently held referendum seeks support for Venezuela’s position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the ICJ. But the question that created the most serious international consequence for Venezuela was one seeking agreement for the creation of the “Guayana Essequiba” state “in accordance with the Geneva Agreement.” The referendum triggered international concern especially after the ICJ issued preliminary measures requiring Venezuela to desist from altering the status quo prior to the conclusion of the case.

These two events led to a crescendo of criticisms of Venezuela from many countries, including Brazil, a powerful and influential neighbour and friend of both Guyana and Venezuela. At the instance of Brazil and Caricom Countries through Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, the Venezuelan and Guyanese Presidents met in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and signed the Argyle Agreement. Just as how Venezuela has torn up the Geneva Agreement, ignored the interim measures of the ICJ, violated basic tenets of international law and ignored international opinion, so it has shown scant regard for the Argyle Agreement by violating its terms a mere three months after signing it.

The Joint Declaration of Argyle for dialogue and peace between Guyana and Venezuela provides for a raft of measures to reduce tensions and stabilize relations. Included among them are: There will be no threat or use of force; The controversies will be resolved according to international law, including the Geneva Agreement; Venezuela and Guyana shall pursue good neighbourliness; Dialogue between the countries is to continue; The countries shall refrain by words or deeds from escalating any conflict or disagreement arising from the controversy; A joint commission of foreign ministers hall be established to discuss matters as mutually agreed; Prime Ministers Gonsalves and Skeritt and President da Silva to remain seized of the matter as interlocutors.

Two weeks ago, Venezuela’s lawmakers approved the establishment of a new state of Guayana Essequiba, consisting of Guyana’s 60,000 square-mile Essequibo region, with its capital being Tumeremo in Bolivar State of Venezuela. The law will come into force as soon as it is published in Venezuela’s Official Gazette. While implementation of the law is impractical at this time because Guyana is in control of the Essequibo, the declaration by Venezuela has finally unmasked the Maduro regime for the world to see. Displaying no regard for international commitment, Venezuela has shredded every single provision of the Argyle Agreement that it has just signed in the presence of representatives of Caricom and CELAC. The Venezuelan Government has no, and has never had any, respect for any agreement regarding the Essequibo, displayed by its attitude to the Geneva Agreement. Its similar, shameless, violation of terms of the Argyle Agreement that it solemnly signed with much relief of the countries of this region, has been discarded as a piece of scrap paper of no worth or value in a matter of months. No one can trust or respect the word of Venezuela in the international community.

The Argyle Agreement is no longer of any value to Guyana and will not stabilize relations between Venezuela and Guyana, as it was expected and intended to do, but the opportunity to utilize it to expose Venezuela’s lack of any principles and aggressive intent and posture towards Guyana should not be given up. Guyana needs to invoke the intervention of the interlocutors named in the Argyle Agreement to condemn Venezuela for its violation of the Agreement and expose its disrespect for international agreements.    

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