CARICOM reaffirms full support for Guyana in border controversy with Venezuela

The Caribbean Community (Caricom), in reaffirming support for Guyana in its border controversy with Venezuela, has urged the Spanish-speaking country to participate in the judicial process before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

This was revealed in a statement Caricom released following its 16th Emergency Meeting, which was held on Monday and which saw the participation of President Dr Irfaan Ali and team as well as other Heads of Government.

According to Caricom, it has taken note of the recent round of negotiations in Mexico that was mediated by Norway between representatives of the Government of Venezuela and that country’s Opposition.

That meeting was supposed to be a discussion about Venezuela’s domestic politics, with a number of other countries, including the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, Norway and Bolivia taking part. But instead, the two sides ratified partial agreements reinforcing Venezuela’s illegal claim to Essequibo.

“As concerns the latter, the Caribbean Community reiterates its firm and unwavering support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana,” Caricom said in its statement.

“It also reaffirms its support for the ongoing judicial process of the International Court of Justice that is intended to bring a peaceful and definitive end to the long-standing controversy between the two countries and urges Venezuela to participate in the process,” it added.

After a failed good offices process between the two South American neighbours, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in 2018 had referred the border controversy matter to be resolved by the ICJ.

Shortly after, Guyana filed a case seeking to reinforce that the 1899 Arbitral Award remains valid and binding on all parties and that the Essequibo region, which contains much of Guyana’s natural resources, belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.

The Spanish-speaking nation is laying claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in Essequibo and a portion of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in which more than nine billion barrels of oil have been discovered over the past six years.

The world court ruled last December that it has jurisdiction to decide Guyana’s case that the boundary between the two States was fixed in the 1899 Arbitral Award. Back in March 2021, the ICJ had granted Guyana until March 8, 2022, to file its written submissions for the case, after requesting 12 months. Venezuela was given until March 8, 2023, to submit its counter-memorial.

But Venezuela has been refusing to accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ and despite the case being still pending before the ICJ, the Spanish-speaking country went ahead and reiterated territorial claims over the Essequibo region last Monday during a meeting between Government and Opposition officials in Mexico City.

However, while in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) on Friday, President Ali declared that Guyana would not become a sacrificial lamb in any political negotiations between the Venezuelan Government and its Opposition.

“We will not be bullied. We will not be used as a sacrificial lamb in any negotiations currently in Venezuela. Our position is very clear. We are very clear,” the Head of State declared while addressing a gathering in Anna Regina, Essequibo Coast.

The Guyanese leader went on to note that Guyana continued to respect the rule of law and  the country was  committed to living peacefully with all of its neighbours and to strengthen the relationships with them all. But, in the same breath, Dr Ali stated that this position must be reciprocated.

“We’re committed to democracy. We are committed to the rule of law…we don’t waiver our principles. We don’t waver depending on the season, we don’t waver depending on who is in Government… we have always respected the rule of law. We have always worked in accordance with the rule of law, we have always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our neighbours,” the President also asserted.

Since Venezuela’s Government and Opposition ratified the partial agreements, both the Guyana Government and the Opposition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) have stood united in reaffirming Guyana’s sovereignty.