Venezuela’s referendum on border controversy raises concerns with Guyana – gov’t

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Guyana’s government has expressed deep concern over the recent decision by the Venezuelan National Assembly to conduct a referendum regarding Venezuela’s claim to Guyana’s territory of Essequibo. It views this move as having the potential to escalate tensions between the two nations. 

According to a statement on Sept. 23, the government said it firmly believes that the appropriate platform for addressing Venezuela’s territorial claim is the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The ICJ has already affirmed its jurisdiction twice to resolve the competing claims of Venezuela and Guyana over the territory. A resolution by the ICJ would provide both parties with a final, binding, and equitable settlement in line with international law.

The government expressed its appreciation for the unwavering support it has received from friendly governments and organisations, including the Caribbean Community, the Organisation of American States, and the Commonwealth. These entities have consistently stood in support of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, emphasizing the importance of upholding the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter. Guyana has also communicated its concerns to the Government of Venezuela.

Venezuela’s National Assembly had approved a referendum to decide what action to take regarding their claim on the Essequibo region. The unanimous approval of the motion by the House has raised concerns about the potential for increased tension in the region.

Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali in response to Venezuela’s referendum assured Guyanese in a public broadcast that the country is going to “consistently defend what is ours, that is Essequibo”. 

“In a strong way, in the framework of international law and peace, and we are together in this as a nation. Make no mistake. Guyana is together on this. We, as a people and as a country, are aware of our boundaries, and we respect our neighbours. We continue to promote living and existing in a zone of peace, and we reject totally Venezuela’s attempt to disrupt the peace within this nation and this zone,” he said. 

But this was not well received by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. He took to X (formerly Twitter) and doubled down on the threats. 

See an excerpt of his post below:

“The steps that your government is taking violate international legality and put the peace of the region at risk. If your interest in Peace is genuine and sincere, I propose a meeting promoted by CARICOM to resume the 1966 Geneva Agreement. President Irfaan, do not allow ExxonMobil, through its improper interests, to lead Guyana to the escalation of a conflict. Do not allow the Southern Command to turn your country into a military base against Bolívar’s Venezuela.”

President Ali raised Venezuela’s recent threat escalations to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Yvan Gill also issued a statement on the world stage. 

In an X post attached to a clip of his address, he said “We have denounced the US government that intends to appropriate our oil resources using the ExxonMobil company, and entrusting the government of Guyana to grant oil concessions in an undelimited territorial sea, in total violation of international law.” 

Recent statements by the OAS and CARICOM have been rejected by Venezuela. 

The escalation came as a result of Guyana’s recent offshore bid round. 

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