Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Venezuela’s referendum today, 3rd December, is only the most recent symptom of its territorial claim that still simmers nearly a century and a quarter after it was settled legally by an international tribunal in 1899. Venezuela’s intimidation of Guyana persists although its claim is before the International Court of Justice.
Former President David Granger expressed concern, on his weekly programme − The Public Interest – that Venezuela’s claim to five of Guyana’s ten regions for over six decades continues to impair international relations and impede economic development.
Venezuela refers to the five regions as its zona en reclamación and yearns to appropriate the coasts and seas of the Barima-Waini and Pomeroon-Supenaam Regions in defiance of international maritime law.
Mr. Granger reminded that every Venezuelan President – from Rómulo Betancourt in 1962 to Nicolás Maduro at present – pursued a foreign policy towards Guyana that ranged from diplomatic intimidation to military confrontation. Most dangerously, the Venezuelan National Armed Forces seized the 7.5 km² Ankoko Island in the Cuyuni River on the frontier between the two countries in 1966 − the very year Venezuela signed the Geneva Agreement and Guyana gained its Independence.
Ankoko remains occupied as a garrison to intimidate military and police officers at Eteringbang and in the Cuyuni and Wenamu Rivers. Later, in 1969, Venezuela was involved in arming, training and transporting rebels in the Rupununi Rebellion to support that Region’s secession from Guyana.
The former president argued that, notwithstanding its territorial interest, Venezuela’s specific strategic objective − from the time of President Raúl Leoni’s Decree No. 1.152 of 1968 − was to secure a ‘salida al Atlántico’ and to annex the sea coast.
Intimidation became more intense with the announcement of discovery of petroleum reserves in Guyana’s maritime zone in 2015. President Nicolás Maduro vowed to ‘reconquer’ the Essequibo − issuing Decrees Nos. 1.787 and 1.859 in 2015 and No. 4.415 in 2021 purporting to reconfigure Venezuelan maritime boundaries to encompass Guyana’s exclusive economic zone.
Granger pointed out that the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela possess about 123,000 frontline troops and hundreds of tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles. The Navy possesses corvettes, frigates and submarines and the Air Force operates hundreds of aircraft. Venezuela’s military intimidation has taken the form of seizing small artisanal fishing boats.
At one stage, Venezuela sent an armed corvette into Guyana’s maritime zone to seize the Teknik Perdana seismic exploration vessel in 2013 and ‘intercepted’ the Ramform Tethys a petroleum research ship, in 2018.
Considering the disparity in military power, manufacturing capability, territorial and population size, natural resources and petroleum reserves, Guyana prudently pursued the peaceful resolution of the controversy which was placed before four United Nations (UN) Secretaries-General who were mandated to select a process to settlement the controversy in accordance with the UN Charter and Geneva Agreement.
The Secretaries-General initiated the “Good Offices Process” which, eventually, showed no beneficial results.
Guyana’s President, namely President David Granger, seeking to bring this perpetual provocation to a permanent and legal conclusion, endorsed the UN Secretary-General’s decision to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to adjudge and declare, inter alia, that the 1899 Arbitral Award is valid and binding upon both the two states.
Granger noted Venezuela has been a threat to human safety, national security and territorial sovereignty for over six decades, and has advised “future generations of Guyanese children deserve to live in peace in the land of their birth.”