Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
The government of Venezuela has announced a referendum date scheduled for December 3, 2023, amidst a long-standing border dispute with neighboring Guyana. With recent significant oil discoveries, Guyana is poised to become economically prosperous, further intensifying the controversy.
Tensions between Guyana and Venezuela have remained persistent for several decades, with a noticeable escalation, especially since the oil discovery by the US energy giant ExxonMobil. Venezuela has actively sought to reignite the dispute.
According to a Reuters report dated October 20, 2023, critics have characterized the upcoming vote as a means for the ruling party in Venezuela to gauge its strength ahead of planned elections next year and to bolster its stance in international courts for complete control over the disputed border territory.
In September this year, Venezuela opposed an oil tender by Guyana, citing the disputed offshore areas and emphasizing that Guyana lacks the right to explore those fields.
Venezuela’s claim to approximately 160,000 square kilometers along the countries’ border, known as the Essequibo, amounts to two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass.
The impending referendum raises questions about the implications of determining the “rights” to a specific territory. International law stipulates that annexation occurs when one country asserts control and sovereignty over another’s territory.
Given that the Guyana-Venezuela border dispute is currently under review by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the decision to proceed with a referendum without the ICJ’s ruling raises concerns among Guyanese citizens. This uncertainty creates an atmosphere of unease, prompting questions about the next steps in preparation for an uncertain future.
If Venezuelans vote to annex Guyana’s territory, it could potentially tip the scales in favor of one side, leaving unresolved questions about potential solutions to the conflict.
When the Russians invaded the Crimean Peninsula, which is a part of Ukraine, they then annexed it, it sparked “the Revolution of Dignity” in 2014. Today there is a war between Russia and Ukraine. This is just an example that serves as a cautionary tale illustrating how one action can trigger a series of unintended consequences.
Considering the current uncertainty and tension, the Guyanese government and its people must set aside differences and present a unified front, at all costs, to protect the country. As the dispute remains under the jurisdiction of the reputable International Court of Justice (ICJ), the hope is that legal experts will address the matter expeditiously.
CARICOM, along with other international stakeholders and governments, must assist in resolving all conflicts related to Venezuela to safeguard Guyana’s borders. The territory of Essequibo rightfully belongs to Guyana, and it will continue to do so.