The Government of Guyana has issued a strong statement expressing its firm rejection of the recent move by the National Electoral Council of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to include questions in a national referendum, scheduled for December 3, 2023, that aim to assert Venezuela’s claim to over two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory.
In a detailed response, Guyana’s government singled out the fifth question on the referendum as particularly concerning. This question, it said, “brazenly seeks the approval of the Venezuelan people for the creation of a new Venezuelan State consisting of Guyana’s Essequibo Region, which would be incorporated into the national territory of Venezuela, and the granting of Venezuelan citizenship to the population.”
The government of Guyana views this as an annexation of its territory, a clear violation of the United Nations (UN) Charter, the Organisation of American States (OAS) Charter, and general international law, constituting an international crime of aggression.
Guyana firmly asserts its commitment to preserving its territorial integrity and rejects any attempt to undermine it. The government stressed that the Essequibo region is part of Guyana’s territory based on the 1899 Arbitral Award that defined the boundaries of the then British Guiana and Venezuela. The government further condemned the act of “granting citizenship and Venezuelan identity cards” as internationally unlawful, citing the Geneva Agreement and international law.
The Guyanese government referenced the Geneva Agreement and principles of international law in addressing the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award, a matter currently before the International Court of Justice. The court has already ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the case and Guyana has encouraged Venezuela to participate.
Guyana’s statement emphasizes the unwavering resolve of the Guyanese people to defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity. The government stresses that international law unequivocally prohibits one country from seizing, annexing, or taking the territory of another.