Venezuela’s referendum has no validity; language suggests use of “force or war” – CARICOM

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Grave concerns have been expressed by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Venezuela’s decision to conduct a national referendum defending its claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. 

 CARICOM said that two of the five questions approved to be posed in the referendum would authorize Venezuela to annex Guyana’s territory to create a state within Venezuela known as “Guyana Essequibo.”

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CARICOM reaffirmed that international law strictly prohibits the government of one State from “unilaterally seizing, annexing or incorporating the territory of another state.” 

It said that an affirmative vote as aforesaid opens the door to the possible violation of this fundamental tenet of international law.

“CARICOM notes that the language of two questions approved to be posed in the Referendum seeks an affirmation and implementation of  Venezuela’s stance on the issue “by all means, according to/with the Law.”  It is open to reasonable persons to conclude that “by all means”, includes means of force or war,” the statement outlined. 

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CARICOM said it earnestly hopes that Venezuela is not raising the prospect of using force or military means to get its own way in this controversy over territory.  “After all, it has been the long-standing position of Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Venezuela, that our region must remain a zone of peace,” its statement continued. 

CARICOM insisted that the proposed referendum has “no validity, bearing, or standing in international law in relation to this controversy.” It deemed the referendum “a purely domestic construct” with summary effects that could undermine peace, tranquility, security, and more, in the region. 

“CARICOM reiterates its support for the judicial process and expresses the hope that Venezuela will engage fully in that process before the International Court of Justice which has determined that it has the jurisdiction in the case brought before it to determine the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award which Venezuela questions. The Court’s final decision will ensure a resolution that is peaceful, equitable and in accordance with international law,” the statement ended. 

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