From rallying an army of liberators whom he compares to the likes of Simon Bolivar, to proclaiming an unwavering commitment to peace and freedom tempered with the defense of sovereignty, the back and forth between war and peace emanating from the mouth of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been a hard one to keep up with. One thing is for sure, in the last two months or so, the Chavista had the Guyanese people and Government on their knees and toes.
Around October, 2023, Nicolas Maduro announced that he would hold a referendum on December 3, 2023 to ratify the voice of the people of Venezuela in support of annexing the Essequibo Region of Guyana by “all means necessary.” He maintained a narrative that this move comes after failed negotiations with Guyana, threat to Venezuela from the US Southern Command operating in conjunction with Exxon Mobil in Guyana, and Guyana’s alleged violation of the Geneva Agreement by extracting resources in the disputed territory.
As Nicolas Maduro activated his military to “liberate and defend” the Essequibo, spent millions of dollars on street rallies, and ramped up military activities at Venezuela’s border with the Essequibo, threatening to annex the Essequibo by force, the Guyana Government scrambled to garner support from world powers. After failed diplomatic efforts from Brazil, the situation became especially worrying, and hit a climax on the evening of December 5th, 2023 after Nicolas Maduro announced a “plan of action” to annex the Essequibo. This included the granting of licenses to Venezuelan companies to explore oil and gas in the Essequibo Region or its maritime boundaries, developing tourism in the Region, and granting Venezuelan citizenship to residents of the Essequibo. He also gave Exxon Mobil and other transnational companies operating in the Essequibo three months to pack up and leave.
That same evening, President Ali came on air to address the nation in which he called out Maduro’s blatant acts of war and announced that he would take the matter to the UN Security Council. From December 6th to 9th, country after country and organization after organization hammered Maduro with expressed support for Guyana and condemnation of Venezuela and its attempt to annex the Essequibo. But the most forceful of these statements came from United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, who said, “these borders were settled in 1899. I see absolutely no case for unilateral action by Venezuela. It should cease. It’s wrong…. I hope to be having some telephone calls later on with the President of Guyana, and others in the region, to try to make sure that this very retrograde step that has been taken does not lead any further.”
These borders were settled in 1899. I see absolutely no case for unilateral action by Venezuela. It should cease. It’s wrong…. I hope to be having some telephone calls later on with the President of Guyana, and others in the region, to try to make sure that this very retrograde step that has been taken does not lead any further.David Cameron – UK Foreign Secretary – December 8th, 2023.
This statement by the UK Foreign Secretary was decisive and definite and expressed a fixed resolve to stop Maduro dead in his track. It is likely the one that delivered the knock-out punch to Maduro’s faltering morale.
In addition to this, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Friday, 8th of December, 2023, behind closed doors, to decide what plan of action to take against Venezuela. They did not speak to reporters after the meeting and all discussions were maintained in secrecy.
Further, Russia made a non-committal statement saying that the dispute should be resolved peacefully and without outside interference. Russia, hit extremely hard by its war against Ukraine, is very likely unable to provide Venezuela with military support.
Maduro has now softened his stance dramatically and has announced this afternoon, 9th of December, 2023, that he is open to CARICOM brokered peace talks. Calling off the incursion may very well be throwing a bucket of water on the heads of his supporters, and who knows how they will react to that?
The December 1 ruling of the ICJ prohibits President Ali from negotiating the boundaries with Maduro as much as it prohibits Maduro from taking control of it. “Neither party shall engage in any action that alters the status of the territory in dispute.”
Maduro has agreed to meet with President Ali and Ralph Gonsalves. Let’s see how the meeting goes. Whatever the outcome, it’s unlikely that a now subdued Maduro will continue to beat the drums of war after the meeting.