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Editorial: Caracas Has No Grip on the Essequibo

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15th of January, 2021. Georgetown, Guyana, South America.

Last updated: April 26, 2023 at 18:31 pm

With Maduro’s growing ridiculous claims of the Essequibo county of Guyana, we can, through a far stretch of the imagination, begin to consider whether he has an ounce of reason to justify his troublesome position.

In summary, Nicolas Maduro is contending that the Paris Award of 1899, which hands the territory over to Guyana, is no longer valid in light of the Geneva Agreement of 1966 – which was signed by Britain, Guyana (then British Guiana), and Venezuela. The Geneva Agreement stipulated that there was a territorial dispute that needs to be amicably resolved but did not settle it in favor of either of the two countries.

If de facto President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, is going to hold on to the position that the Paris Award of 1899 has been nullified due to the Geneva Agreement of 1966, then he is asserting a very dangerous position especially in light of the fact that he has repeatedly threatened military action against Guyana over the Essequibo.

Fortunately, Guyana has the backing of several international powers including the United Kingdom, Brazil and the United States. Further, while Maduro is claiming that the International Court of Justice does not have the jurisdiction to hear the case of the territorial dispute between Guyana and Venezuela, the ICJ has asserted that it does.

A brazen move by the Venezuelan parliament in attempting to reclaim the Essequibo in January 2021 sparked backlashes, warnings, and criticisms from the international community which resulted in Venezuela becoming even more isolated than it had previously been.

Throughout history, the Essequibo has always been administered by Guyana and never by Venezuela. The borders along the Essequibo regions have always been secured by the Guyana Defense Force. Further, there were no Spanish-speaking residents of the Essequibo territories. And if there were, they were identified either as Venezuelans living in Guyana or Guyanese by birth, naturalization, etc who spoke Spanish.

Residents of the Essequibo were never allowed to enter Venezuela without a visa, and residents of Venezuela were similarly not allowed to enter the Essequibo without a visa. Residents of the Essequibo always paid Guyanese taxes and were hired by the Guyana government or Guyanese businesses.

The Guyana government has spent billions of dollars developing the Essequibo regions for decades, and before that, it had been under the development of the British. On the other hand, throughout history, Caracas never spent a single dime in the development of the Essequibo. In fact, when Venezuela enjoyed its oil boom a few decades ago, Venezuela became the richest country in South America – but residents of the Essequibo did not receive any of this wealth or status – they remained classified under the status of the Guyanese economy. Residents of the Essequibo never earned or spent Venezuelan currency except perhaps in foreign exchange or remittances.

However, in the year 2015, when Nicolas Maduro learned of the massive oil discoveries in Guyana’s waters, his government rushed to offer Venezuelan ID cards to residents of the Essequibo. But at that time, even Venezuelans were fleeing Venezuela by the droves, and no one wanted to be classified as a resident of poverty-stricken Venezuela.

By then, hyperinflation had already struck the Venezuelan currency and it had little to no value. In the year 2015, the offer to receive a Venezuelan ID card was extended to all residents of the Essequibo, but whether for economic or patriotic reasons, no Guyanese residing in the Essequibo responded.

Bear in mind that Venezuela, with over 300 billion barrels, has the largest oil reserves in the world – but this serves no economic purpose under crippling international sanctions. What then is there for them to gain by coveting a fraction of Guyana’s 11 billion barrels?

In reality, Maduro will have a hard time enforcing his outrageous claims with his incapacitated military and especially under the watchful eyes of world powers. On one hand, it is unlikely that the Brazilian government will be comfortable with Venezuela having such an extended border with Brazil, and any land grab along Brazil’s border by Venezuela is likely to be met with resistance from the Brazilian government. On the other hand, the United States is, speculatively, only waiting for such an opportunity to forcefully remove the chavista from power and restore democracy to Venezuela.

In the light of all of the above factors, we can conclude that Maduro’s claim of the Essequibo, therefore, is nothing more than the desperate ramblings of a delusional lunatic.

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